Twenty-five of 50 randomly selected tuberculin-reacting cattle were confirmed as tuberculous in the laboratory. All 25 cattle had macroscopic lesions in lymph nodes associated with the respiratory tracts but only one had lung lesions. M bovis was isolated from the anterior respiratory tracts in the heads of four of the 25 tuberculous animals and from a nostril lesion found in a fifth. For at least three of these five animals, the intervals between the final tuberculin test and their previously negative tests indicated that infection had established relatively rapidly. Four of them had been tuberculin tested solely because they were animals in contiguous 'at risk' herds. It would appear that although M bovis can be isolated from the anterior respiratory tracts in the heads of tuberculin-reacting cattle, it is unlikely that primary foci of infection exist in regions other than the lungs or associated tissues. The study demonstrates the potential for reactors with lesions to excrete M bovis and the continued importance of infected cattle in the epidemiology and eradication of the disease.
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