Image2_Trends and Predictors of Large Tuberculosis Episodes in Cattle Herds in Ireland.JPEG

Persistence of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle is an important feature of Mycobacterium bovis infection, presenting either as herd recurrence or local persistence. One risk factor associated with the risk of recurrent episodes is the severity of a previous bTB episode (severity reflecting the number of bTB reactors identified during the episode). In this study, we have sought to identify predictors that can distinguish between small (less severe) and large (more severe) bTB episodes, and to describe nationally the severity of bTB episodes over time. The study included descriptive statistics of the proportion of episodes by severity from 2004 to 2015 and a case-control study. The case-control study population included all herds with at least one episode beginning in 2014 or 2015, with at least two full herd tests during the episode and a minimum herd-size of 60 animals. Case herds included study herds with at least 13 reactors whereas control herds had between 2 to 4 (inclusive) reactors during the first 2 tests of the episode. A logistic regression model was developed to identify risk factors associated with a large episode. Although there has been a general trend towards less severe herd bTB episodes in Ireland over time (2004–2015), the proportion of large episodes has remained relatively consistent. From the case-control study, the main predictors of a large episode were the year the episode started, increasing herd-size, previous exposure to bTB, increasing bTB incidence in the local area, an animal with a bTB lesion and a bTB episode in an associated herd. Herds that introduced more animals were more likely to have a smaller bTB episode, reflecting the reduced risk of within-herd transmission when an episode was due to an introduced infected bTB animal. Some of the risk factors identified in this study such as reactors in previous bTB episodes, herds with an associated herd undergoing a bTB episode, herds in high incidence areas etc. may help to target future policy measures to specific herds or animals for additional surveillance measures. This information has important policy implications.