Main content area

Within-herd contact structure and transmission of Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis in a persistently infected dairy cattle herd

Marcé, C., Ezanno, P., Seegers, H., Pfeiffer, D.U., Fourichon, C.
Preventive veterinary medicine 2011 v.100 no.2 pp. 116-125
Mycobacterium avium, adults, calf housing, calves, dairy cattle, dairy herds, direct contact, environmental exposure, environmental models, farm area, farms, feces, herd size, hygiene, indirect contact, ingestion, paratuberculosis, pathogenicity, pathogens, stochastic processes, weaning
Within-herd transmission of pathogens occurs either by direct or by indirect contact between susceptible and infected animals. In dairy herds that are structured into groups, the way in which animals encounter each other and share an environment can affect pathogen transmission. Dairy cattle are heterogeneous in terms of susceptibility and infectivity with respect to Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (Map) transmission. It is mainly young animals that are susceptible and adults that are infectious. Both vertical and horizontal transmission through the ingestion of Map shed into the environment by adults and transiently infected calves can occur. Our objective was to assess the effect of contact structure on Map transmission in persistently infected dairy herds and to examine the effect of isolating calves from other calves or from adults before weaning. We developed a stochastic compartmental model of Map transmission in a closed dairy herd. The model reflects the Map infection process and herd management characteristics. Indirect transmission via the environment was modelled explicitly. Six infection states (susceptible, resistant, transiently infectious, latently infected, subclinically infected, and clinically affected) and two contaminated farm area environments (whole farm and calf area) were modelled. Calves were housed in hutches, individual indoor pens, or group indoor pens. Two different levels of exposure of calves to a farm environment contaminated by adults were possible: no exposure and indirect exposure through fomites. Three herd sizes were studied. We found that contacts between calves before weaning did not influence Map transmission in a herd, whereas the level of exposure of calves to an environment contaminated by adults and the starting age of exposure of calves to adults were pivotal. Early culling of clinically affected adults led to a lower prevalence of infectious adults over time. The results were independent of herd size. Despite the many transmission routes that are known, the best control approach is to limit the exposure of calves to adult faeces through the systematic separation of adults and calves in combination with hygiene measures. Reducing contact between calves does not appear effective.