Exploring the Risk Posed by Animals with An Inconclusive Reaction to the Bovine Tuberculosis Skin Test in England and Wales

May, E and Prosser, A and Downs, S H and Brunton, L A (2019) Exploring the Risk Posed by Animals with An Inconclusive Reaction to the Bovine Tuberculosis Skin Test in England and Wales. Veterinary Sciences, 6 (4). p. 97.

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Abstract

The single intradermal comparative cervical tuberculin (SICCT) test is the primary test for ante-mortem diagnosis of bovine tuberculosis (TB) in England and Wales. When an animal is first classified as an inconclusive reactor (IR) using this test, it is not subject to compulsory slaughter, but it must be isolated from the rest of the herd. To understand the risk posed by these animals, a case-control study was conducted to measure the association between IR status of animals and the odds of them becoming a reactor to the SICCT at a subsequent test. The study included all animals from herds in which only IR animals were found at the first whole herd test in 2012 and used data from subsequent tests up until the end of 2016. Separate mixed-effects logistic regression models were developed to examine the relationship between IR status and subsequent reactor status for each risk area of England and for Wales, adjusting for other explanatory variables. The odds of an animal becoming a subsequent reactor during the study period were greater for IR animals than for negative animals in the high-risk area (odds ratio (OR): 6.85 (5.98–7.86)) and edge area (OR: 8.79 (5.92–13.04)) of England and in Wales (OR: 6.87 (5.75–8.22)). In the low-risk area of England, the odds were 23 times greater, although the confidence interval around this estimate was larger due to the smaller sample size (11–48, p < 0.001). These findings support the need to explore differential controls for IR animals to reduce the spread of TB, and they highlight the importance of area-specific policies.