Wildlife Disease and Zoonotics


Date of this Version



Infection, Genetics and Evolution 28 (2014) 137–143.


This article is a U.S. government work, and is not subject to copyright in the United States.


Despite control and eradication efforts, bovine tuberculosis continues to be identified at low levels among cattle in the United States. We evaluated possible external sources of infection by characterizing the genetic relatedness of bovine tuberculosis from a national database of reported infections, comparing strains circulating among US cattle with those of imported cattle, and farmed and wild cervids.

Farmed cervids maintained a genetically distinct Mycobacterium bovis strain, and cattle occasionally became infected with this strain. In contrast, wild cervids acted as an epidemiologically distinct group, instead hosting many of the same strains found in cattle, and the data did not show a clear transmission direction. Cattle from Mexico hosted a higher overall richness of strains than US cattle, and many of those strains were found in both US and Mexican cattle. However, these two populations appeared to be wellmixed with respect to their M. bovis lineages, and higher resolution data is necessary to infer the direction of recent transmission.

Overall patterns of both host and geographic distributions were highly variable among strains, suggesting that different sources or transmission mechanisms are contributing to maintaining different strains.