Date of this Version
Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is a zoonotic disease caused by Mycobaterium bovis and is transmissible to humans, wildlife, and domestic livestock. In the United Kingdom, the suspected wildlife reservoir of bTB is the badger (Meles meles) (HUTCHINGS and HARRIS, 1997), and in New Zealand, the culprit is the brush-tailed possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) (MORRIS et al., 1994). In northern Michigan, USA, bovine tuberculosis is endemic in white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). In 1975 a hunter-killed white-tailed deer in Alpena County, Michigan, USA, was tested positive for bTB. Subsequent surveillance by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) of hunter-killed deer revealed no additional cases, and the situation was ruled an anomaly. However, in 1994, an additional hunter-killed white-tailed deer tested positive for bTB in Alcona County, only 13 km from the 1975 case. Between 1995 and 2005, a total of 509 deer tested positive for the disease (MDNR, 2005) and evidence suggested that deer transmitted the disease to domestic cattle (PALMER et al., 2004a). From 1997 to 2004, 33 cattle herds and 1 captive cervid farm tested positive for bTB (MDNR, 2005), most of them within a 5- county area. In addition, in 2006, 6 cattle farms and 1 captive cervid farm tested positive for the disease (MDNR, personal communication). In response to this outbreak, in the past several years MDNR has implemented management strategies to reduce the prevalence of bTB in deer in the outbreak area. These include reduction of deer densities through liberal hunting and restriction of baiting and supplemental feeding of white-tailed deer to reduce deer densities. In addition, Michigan Department of Agriculture and USDA/APHIS/Veterinary Services actively test cattle and captive deer herds with subsequent depopulation of infected herds. And while these actions have reduced the apparent prevalence of bTB in deer from 4.7 % to 1.7 %, a 64 % reduction (MDNR, 2005), other wildlife species may act as reservoirs for the disease. Bovine tuberculosis has been documented in many species of wildlife, including raccoons (Procyon lotor), coyotes (Canis latrans), red fox (Vulpes vulpes) and black bear (Ursus americanus) (BRUNING-FANN et al., 2001). In the outbreak area, bTB prevalence estimates in coyotes and raccoons are as high as 24% (VERCAUTEREN et al., unpublished data) and 2.5 % (WITMER et al., unpublished data), respectively. This raises the question of whether infected raccoons and coyotes actively shed M. bovis through either feces or oral/nasal secretions, thus increasing risks of infection to cattle and other wildlife.