Detection of Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis in skeletal muscle and blood of ewes from a sheep farm in New Zealand

Detection of Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis in skeletal muscle and blood of ewes from a sheep farm in New Zealand
Peer reviewed

Abstract

AIM: To determine whether viable Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (Map) is present in skeletal muscle and blood in ewes with and without Johne's disease confirmed histologically.

METHODS: A total of 51 mixed-aged ewes in poor body condition from a farm with a history of clinical Johne's disease were culled and examined at necropsy. BACTEC radiometric culture was performed on samples of skeletal muscle from the biceps femoris, mononuclear cells in peripheral blood (hereafter referred to as blood), and ileum. Histological sections and Ziehl-Neelsen (ZN)-stained impression smears of terminal ileum and mesenteric lymph nodes were examined. Ewes were defined as having confirmed Johne's disease if there was histopathological evidence typical of the disease within the ileum and adjacent lymph nodes.

RESULTS: Eighteen of 21 (86%) ewes with confirmed clinical Johne's disease were culture-positive for Map from sites peripheral to the alimentary tract, comprising 15 from skeletal muscle and 13 from blood. Five of 30 (17%) ewes that did not have Johne's disease were culture-positive, with four from skeletal muscle and one from blood. The likelihood that ewes with confirmed Johne's disease had systemic Map infection compared with ewes without was determined as OR=30 (95% CI=6.3-142.0; p<0.001).

CONCLUSION: The prevalence of Map infection of skeletal muscle and blood in ewes with confirmed Johne's disease was 71% and 62% respectively, and in unaffected ewes was 13% for muscle and 3% for blood.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE: Skeletal muscle and blood are potential sources of exposure of humans to Map, and the risk appears higher from sheep with Johne's disease.

KEY WORDS: Mycobacterium avium subsp, paratuberculosis, Johne's disease, skeletal muscle, blood, BACTEC radiometric culture, Crohn's disease


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