Wildlife Disease and Zoonotics


Date of this Version



Published in AJVR, Vol 65, No. 11, November 2004.


Objective—To investigate the infection of calves with Mycobacterium bovis through oral exposure and transmission of M bovis from experimentally infected white-tailed deer to uninfected cattle through indirect contact.

Animals—24 11-month-old, white-tailed deer and 28 6-month-old, crossbred calves.

Procedure—In the oral exposure experiment, doses of 4.3 X 106 CFUs (high dose) or 5 X 103 CFUs (low dose) of M bovis were each administered orally to 4 calves; as positive controls, 2 calves received M bovis (1.7 X 105 CFUs) via tonsillar instillation. Calves were euthanatized and examined 133 days after exposure. Deer-to-cattle transmission was assessed in 2 phases (involving 9 uninfected calves and 12 deer each); deer were inoculated with 4 X 105 CFUs (phase I) or 7 X 105 CFUs (phase II) of M Bovis. Calves and deer exchanged pens (phase I; 90 days’ duration) or calves received uneaten feed from deer pens (phase II; 140 days’ duration) daily. At completion, animals were euthanatized and tissues were collected for bacteriologic culture and histologic examination.

Results—In the low- and high-dose groups, 3 of 4 calves and 1 of 4 calves developed tuberculosis, respectively. In phases I and II, 9 of 9 calves and 4 of 9 calves developed tuberculosis, respectively.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results indicated that experimentally infected deer can transmit M bovis to cattle through sharing of feed. In areas where tuberculosis is endemic in free-ranging white-tailed deer, management practices to prevent access of wildlife to feed intended for livestock should be implemented.