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Short communication: Heritability of susceptibility to infection by Mycobacterium avium ssp. paratuberculosis in Holstein cattle

Kirkpatrick, Brian W., Lett, Beth M.
Journal of dairy science 2018 v.101 no.12 pp. 11165-11169
Holstein, Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis, antibodies, blood, cattle diseases, dairy cattle, data collection, daughters, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, herds, heritability, inflammatory bowel disease, linear models, milk, paratuberculosis, pathogens, sires, small intestine, statistical analysis, threshold models, zoonoses, United States
Johne's disease in cattle is the result of infection of the small intestine by Mycobacterium avium ssp. paratuberculosis (MAP), leading to an incurable inflammatory bowel disease (Johne's disease or paratuberculosis). The disease is a concern both for its direct cost to dairy producers and for its zoonotic potential. The objective of this study was to estimate the heritability for susceptibility to infection of cattle by MAP using Johne's testing records (ELISA test for presence of antibodies to MAP in milk or blood) from US Holstein cattle from 2009 to 2016. Data sets were edited to include records from herds with 100 or more total records and sires with 50 or more daughters. Data sets were further edited to include (1) only herds with at least 1 positive test, (2) herds with at least 2.5% positive test results, and (3) herds with at least 5% positive test results to examine the effect of data from herds with higher proportions of positive tests, and presumably higher pathogen exposure, on heritability estimates. Two models were used in this study, a linear sire model and a binary threshold-probit sire model. Both were mixed models considering fixed effects of herd and age at test, the latter as a covariate accounting for linear and quadratic effects; random effects included sire and residual. Analyses were conducted using a restricted maximum likelihood method. Heritability estimates (±standard error) from the linear model were 0.041 ± 0.004, 0.050 ± 0.004, and 0.062 ± 0.007 for data from herds with at least 1 positive test, ≥2.5% positive tests, and ≥5% positive tests, respectively. Heritability estimates from the threshold model were 0.157 ± 0.014, 0.174 ± 0.016, and 0.186 ± 0.021 for data from herds with at least 1 positive test, ≥2.5% positive tests, and ≥5% positive tests, respectively. Heritability estimates from the linear model were affected by population incidence for positive tests, in contrast to estimates from the threshold model, likely accounting for the difference in magnitude of heritability estimates between models and suggesting that the threshold model analysis is the better choice. Heritability estimates increased as data were restricted to herds with presumed higher MAP exposure for both linear model and threshold model analyses. These estimates are similar to previous estimates in other dairy cattle populations and suggest the potential for selection to lessen susceptibility to MAP infection.