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Künzler, Rahel; Torgerson, Paul; Keller, Selina; Wittenbrink, Max; Stephan, Roger; Knubben-Schweizer, Gabriela; Berchtold, Beat; Meylan, Mireille: Observed management practices in relation to the risk of infection with paratuberculosis and to the spread of Mycobacterium avium subsp paratuberculosis in Swiss dairy and beef herds. In: BMC Veterinary Research 2014, 10:132




Background: Many studies have been conducted to define risk factors for the transmission of bovine paratuberculosis, mostly in countries with large herds. Little is known about the epidemiology in infected Swiss herds and risk factors important for transmission in smaller herds. Therefore, the presence of known factors which might favor the spread of paratuberculosis and could be related to the prevalence at animal level of fecal shedding of Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis were assessed in 17 infected herds (10 dairy, 7 beef). Additionally, the level of knowledge of herd managers about the disease was assessed. In a case-control study with 4 matched negative control herds per infected herd, the association of potential risk factors with the infection status of the herd was investigated. Results: Exposure of the young stock to feces of older animals was frequently observed in infected and in control herds. The farmers' knowledge about paratuberculosis was very limited, even in infected herds. An overall prevalence at animal level of fecal shedding of Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis of 6.1% was found in infected herds, whereby shedders younger than 2 years of age were found in 46.2% of the herds where the young stock was available for testing. Several factors related to contamination of the heifer area with cows' feces and the management of the calving area were found to be significantly associated with the within-herd prevalence. Animal purchase was associated with a positive herd infection status (OR = 7.25, p = 0.004). Conclusions: Numerous risk factors favoring the spread of Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis from adult animals to the young stock were observed in infected Swiss dairy and beef herds, which may be amenable to improvement in order to control the disease. Important factors were contamination of the heifer and the calving area, which were associated with higher within-herd prevalence of fecal shedding. The awareness of farmers of paratuberculosis was very low, even in infected herds. Animal purchase in a herd was significantly associated with the probability of a herd to be infected and is thus the most important factor for the control of the spread of disease between farms.