The objective of this study was to evaluate whether cows that were low shedders of Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis were passively shedding or truly infected with M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis. We also investigated whether it is possible that these M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis-infected animals could have been infected as adults by contemporary high-shedding animals (supershedders). The M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis isolates were obtained from a longitudinal study of three dairy herds in the northeastern United States. Isolates were selected from fecal samples and tissues at slaughter from all animals that were culture positive at the same time that supershedders were present in the herds. Shedding levels (CFU of M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis/g of feces) for the animals at each culture-positive occasion were determined. Using a multilocus short-sequence-repeat technique, we found 15 different strains of M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis from a total of 142 isolates analyzed. Results indicated herd-specific infection patterns; there was a clonal infection in herd C, with 89% of isolates from animals sharing the same strain, whereas herds A and B showed several different strains infecting the animals at the same time. Tissues from 80% of cows with at least one positive fecal culture (other than supershedders) were culture positive, indicating a true M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis infection. The results of M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis strain typing and observed shedding levels showed that at least 50% of low shedders have the same strain as that of a contemporary supershedder. Results of this study suggest that in a dairy herd, more of the low-shedding cows are truly infected with M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis than are passively shedding M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis. The sharing of strains between low shedders and the contemporary supershedders suggests that low shedders may have been infected by environmental exposure of M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Microbiology (medical)