Date of this Version
Transboundary and Emerging Diseases (2012); doi:10.1111/tbed.12032
Mycobacterium bovis, the causative agent of tuberculosis in animals, has a broad host range, including humans. Historically, public health concerns prompted programs to eradicate tuberculosis from cattle in many nations. Eradication efforts decreased the prevalence of bovine tuberculosis; nevertheless, some countries encountered significant obstacles, not least of which was a wildlife reservoir of M. bovis. Efforts to decrease the size of the affected wildlife populations have neither eliminated disease nor eliminated transmission to cattle. Consequently, the use of a vaccine for wildlife is being explored. The vaccine most studied is M. bovis BCG, an attenuated live vaccine, first developed 100 years ago. The most efficient and effective means of vaccinating wildlife will be an oral vaccine. White-tailed deer in Michigan, USA, constitute a reservoir of M. bovis. White-tailed deer are a popular game species, and as such, represent a food animal to many hunters. BCG persistence in deer tissues could result in human exposure to BCG. Although non-pathogenic, BCG exposure could induce false-positive skin test results, confounding the central component of public health surveillance for TB. The objective of the present study in white-tailed deer was to evaluate persistence of lipid-encapsulated BCG and a liquid suspension of BCG after oral administration at two different dosages. Vaccine was not recovered at any time after oral consumption of a bait containing a single dose (1 X 108 CFU) of lipid-encapsulated BCG. However, persistence was consistent in deer consuming 10 lipid-encapsulated baits (1 X 109 CFU), with BCG recovered from at least one deer at 1, 3, 6, 9 and 12 months after consumption. Persistence of up to 9 months was seen in deer vaccinated with orally with a liquid suspension. Persistence of BCG was limited to lymphoid tissue and never found in samples of muscle collected at each time point. Although the risk of exposure to hunters is low, BCG persistence should be considered prior to field use in white-tailed deer.