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Molecular Epidemiology of Brucella abortus Isolates from Cattle, Elk, and Bison in the United States, 1998 to 2011

Higgins, James, Stuber, Tod, Quance, Christine, Edwards, William H., Tiller, Rebekah V., Linfield, Tom, Rhyan, Jack, Berte, Angela, Harris, Beth
Applied and environmental microbiology 2012 v.78 no.10 pp. 3674-3684
Brucella melitensis biovar Abortus, bison, cattle, elks, genetic variation, genome, herds, loci, minisatellite repeats, molecular epidemiology, sows, tandem repeat sequences, Idaho, Montana, Texas, Wyoming
A variable-number tandem repeat (VNTR) protocol targeting 10 loci in the Brucella abortus genome was used to assess genetic diversity among 366 field isolates recovered from cattle, bison, and elk in the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA) and Texas during 1998 to 2011. Minimum spanning tree (MST) and unweighted-pair group method with arithmetic mean (UPGMA) analyses of VNTR data identified 237 different VNTR types, among which 14 prominent clusters of isolates could be identified. Cattle isolates from Texas segregated into three clusters: one comprised of field isolates from 1998 to 2005, one comprised of vaccination-associated infections, and one associated with an outbreak in Starr County in January 2011. An isolate obtained from a feral sow trapped on property adjacent to the Starr County herd in May 2011 clustered with the cattle isolates, suggesting a role for feral swine as B. abortus reservoirs in Starr County. Isolates from a 2005 cattle outbreak in Wyoming displayed VNTR-10 profiles matching those of strains recovered from Wyoming and Idaho elk. Additionally, isolates associated with cattle outbreaks in Idaho in 2002, Montana in 2008 and 2011, and Wyoming in 2010 primarily clustered with isolates recovered from GYA elk. This study indicates that elk play a predominant role in the transmission of B. abortus to cattle located in the GYA.