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Brucellosis, a disease caused by organisms of the genus Brucella, is a zoonosis that is globally of great socioeconomic importance (Corbel 1997). There are currently 10 recognised species within the genus Brucella differentiated based on a combination of phenotypic characteristics and perceived host specificities (Whatmore 2009). Economically, the more important of these species are Brucella abortus, Brucella melitensis and Brucella suis, and these are primarily associated with disease in cattle, sheep and goats, and pigs, respectively (Corbel 1997). In these animals, brucellosis can lead to reproductive problems such as abortion and sterility (Corbel 1997). There is no treatment regimen for animals, and control in the animal population can be achieved through appropriate use of licensed vaccine strains and slaughtering of infected individuals (Sanz and others 2010).
In addition to diagnosis by cultural and serological methods, brucellosis infection can be detected by molecular methods based around PCR (Godfroid and others 2010). PCR-based assays are rapid and highly sensitive and specific, with some assays detecting down to 10 cells in less than two hours (Bounaadja and others 2009). In addition to primary detection, molecular assays have been developed that can distinguish all accepted Brucella species and vaccine strains (Gopaul and others 2008, 2010, López-Goñi and others 2008).
Molecular techniques based on conventional PCR have also been applied to aid in the epidemiology of brucellosis. One technique in particular, variable number tandem repeat (VNTR) analysis, has been used widely to demonstrate sources of infection …
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