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Assessment of antemortem tests used in the control of an outbreak of tuberculosis in llamas (Lama glama)
  1. D. F. Twomey, MVB, MRCVS1,
  2. T. R. Crawshaw, BVetMed, MSc, MRCVS1,
  3. J. E. Anscombe, BVetMed, MRCVS1,
  4. J. E. F. Barnett, BVSc, BSc, MRCVS2,
  5. L. Farrant, BVetMed, MRCVS3,
  6. L. J. Evans, BVetMed, MRCVS3,
  7. W. S. McElligott, MVB, MRCVS4,
  8. R. J. Higgins, BVM&S, MSc, MRCVS5,
  9. G. S. Dean, PhD6,
  10. H. M. Vordermeier, PhD6 and
  11. R. de la Rua-Domenech, DVM, PhD, DipECVPH, MRCVS7
  1. 1 Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) — Starcross, Staplake Mount, Starcross, Exeter, Devon EX6 8PE
  2. 2 VLA — Truro, Polwhele, Truro, Cornwall TR4 9AD
  3. 3 Animal Health, Clyst House, Winslade Park, Clyst St Mary, Devon EX5 1DY
  4. 4 St Boniface Veterinary Clinic, 47 Mill Street, Crediton, Devon EX17 3AA
  5. 5 VLA — Lasswade, Pentlands Science Park, Bush Loan, Penicuik, Midlothian EH26 0PZ
  6. 6 VLA — Weybridge, New Haw, Addlestone, Surrey KT15 3NB
  7. 7 Bovine Tuberculosis Programme, Defra, Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London SW1P 3JR
  1. E-mail for correspondence: f.twomey{at}vla.defra.gsi.gov.uk

Abstract

An outbreak of tuberculosis (TB) caused by Mycobacterium bovis in a llama herd is described. Over a 25-month period, a total of 70 llamas were selected for postmortem examination using four distinct criteria: clinical suspicion of disease (15 animals), positive tuberculin skin test result (three animals), antibody positive using a novel serological test (Rapid Test, 54 animals) and elective cull (five animals). Some animals qualified on more than one criterion. Gross lesions of TB were detected in 15 animals, with lung and lymph node lesions consistently observed. Samples were collected from 14 of 15 animals with visible lesions as well as those with no visible lesions, for histopathology and mycobacterial culture. All 14 llamas with visible lesions had caseonecrotic granulomatous lesions associated with acid-fast bacteria and variable mineralisation, and M bovis was isolated from 13. There were no histopathological lesions of TB in llamas with no grossly visible lesions, and M bovis was not isolated from any of these. The predictive value of suspicious gross lesions at postmortem examination was therefore high in the herd. Molecular typing results indicated that the outbreak was caused by a single strain likely to have originated from a local reservoir, probably cattle or wildlife. Antemortem indicators of infection assisted control of the outbreak, but no single test accurately identified all TB cases. Visible lesions were detected in nine of 15 llamas with clinical suspicion of disease, in two of three that had positive tuberculin skin test results and in 10 of 54 that were antibody positive; there was none (zero out of five) in llamas that were electively culled.

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