Brucellergene OCB (Rhône-Mérieux) was used as an allergen to define the intrinsic parameters of a skin test and to compare its properties with serology for the diagnosis of bovine brucellosis. The skin test was also evaluated for its capacity to solve problems associated with false positive reactions in serological tests. The optimal reading delay for the skin test was 72 hours. The brucellosis allergic reaction was two to three times less intense than the tuberculosis allergic reaction. An increase of 1.1 mm or more in the skin thickness was therefore considered to be an adequate cut-off. The specificity calculated for 1192 brucellosis-free animals (including animals from brucellosis-free herds in which false positive serological reactions had been reported) was 99.83 per cent (95 per cent confidence interval [CI] 99.40 to 99.98 per cent). The sensitivity determined from 27 experimentally infected heifers ranged from 93 per cent (95 per cent ci 76 to 100 per cent) to 78 per cent (95 per cent cl 58 to 91 per cent) when measured respectively one and six months after the infection. Allergic reactions could be detected in vaccinated animals up to four-and-a-half years after the vaccination. On the other hand, no sensitisation was recorded in naïve animals after up to eight monthly injections of the allergen. The skin test gave valuable information, in combination with the serological tests, in both acute and chronic brucellosis. The skin test discriminated brucellosis clearly from false positive serological reactions due to infections with Yersinia enterocolitica O9.
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