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Using lymphatic fluid to diagnose Johne's disease

J. L. Khol, P. J. Pinedo, C. D. Buergelt, L. M. Neumann, D. O. Rae

JOHNE'S disease, caused by Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP), can cause considerable economic losses in cattle herds. MAP-infected animals shed large amounts of the pathogen in their faeces, and large amounts are also seen in the milk and colostrum of cows in the advanced stages of Johne's disease. Diagnosis of the disease is hampered by the long incubation period (around five years) before clinical signs occur, as well as unpredictable immune responses to MAP. Bacterial culture of MAP in faeces is considered the gold standard diagnostic test, but the sensitivity of this method has been estimated to range widely – from 39 to 92 per cent. Other methods of diagnosis have varying levels of sensitivity. This study aimed to assess whether lymphatic fluid taken from the udders of cows was better than faecal culture and ELISA in the diagnosis of Johne's disease.

Eighty-six cows known to be infected with MAP were tested. Lymphatic fluid, blood, faeces and milk samples were taken from each cow. Twenty-five of these 86 cows that were still in the herd and still lactating were tested again 12 months after the first test and, of these, 14 were tested again 20 months after the first test. Including all rounds of …

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