Variation in Mycobacterium bovis genetic richness suggests that inwards cattle movements are a more important source of infection in beef herds than in dairy herds
Background We used genetic Multi-Locus VNTR Analysis (MLVA) data gathered from surveillance efforts to better understand the ongoing bovine tuberculosis (bTB) epidemic in Northern Irish cattle herds. We modelled the factors associated with Mycobacterium bovis MLVA genotype richness at three analytical scales; breakdown level, herd level, and patch level, and compared the results between dairy and non-dairy production types. Results In 83% of breakdowns and in 63% of herds, a single MLVA genotype was isolated. Five or more MLVA genotypes were found in less than 3 % of herds. Herd size and the total number of reactors were important explanatory variables, suggesting that increasing MLVA genotype richness was positively related to increases in the number of host animals. Despite their smaller relative size, however, the highest MLVA genotype richness values were observed in non-dairy herds. Increasing inwards cattle movements were important positive predictors of MLVA genotype richness, but mainly in non-dairy settings. Conclusions The principal finding is that low MLVA genotype richness indicates that small-scale epidemics, e.g. wildlife, contiguous farms, and within-herd recrudescence, are important routes of M. bovis infection in cattle herds. We hypothesise that these mechanisms will maintain, but may not explicitly increase, MLVA genotype richness. The presence of elevated MLVA richness is relatively rare and likely indicates beef fattening enterprises, which purchase cattle from over long distances. Cattle movements were furthermore an important predictor of MLVA genotype richness in non-dairy herds, but not in dairy herds; this may represent reduced cattle purchasing levels in dairy enterprises, compared to beef. These observations allude to the relative contribution of different routes of bTB infection between production types; we posit that infection associated with local factors may be more evident in dairy herds than beef herds, however in beef herds, inwards movements offer additional opportunities for introducing M. bovis into the herd.
Publication history: Accepted - 25 June 2019; Published online - July 2019
Bovine tuberculosis, Northern Ireland, Genotype richness, MLVA, Dairy, Beef
Milne, M. G., Graham, J., Allen, A., McCormick, C., Presho, E., Skuce, R. and Byrne, A. W. (2019) ‘Variation in Mycobacterium bovis genetic richness suggests that inwards cattle movements are a more important source of infection in beef herds than in dairy herds’, BMC Microbiology. Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 19(1). doi: 10.1186/s12866-019-1530-7.