Although it is generally recognised that tuberculous lesions are present in lymph nodes associated with the respiratory tract in approximately 90 per cent of reactors with confirmed infection, lung lesions are found in only 1 to 2 per cent of such cases during abattoir examination. When lung lesions are not detected, it has been claimed that such cattle are non-excretors and thus unimportant in the epidemiology of the disease. In this study the lungs of 55 reactor cattle were sliced into sections approximately 0.5 cm thick. Tuberculous lesions were evident in over 70 per cent of lungs from reactors with concurrent lesions in lymph nodes of the respiratory system. Further, M bovis was isolated from single samples of nasal and, or, tracheal mucus taken at slaughter in 19 per cent of confirmed cases. Several of these reactors had a clear tuberculin test less than six months previously indicating recent infection. This study confirms the continued importance of the infected bovine in the epidemiology and current eradication of bovine tuberculosis. It is suggested that all tuberculous cattle with lesions in respiratory lymph nodes, rather than being regarded as non-excretors, should be considered as possible excretors and thus important sources of infection for other cattle both within and between herds.
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