Effects of seasonal heat stress on the diagnosis of Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis in Texas dairy cattle



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Texas A&M University


The validity of Johne??s disease herd status programs and on-farm disease control programs that rely on established ??cutpoints?? (e.g., S/P ratios) for ELISA serological tests such as the HerdChek?? (IDEXX Laboratories Inc., Westbrook, Maine) may be susceptible to varied seasonal test accuracy. An observed depression in the proportion of a large central Texas dairy herd classified as ??positive?? during the months of July and August led to our investigation. We hypothesized that there exists a seasonal variability in serological response to Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis that is directly related to heat stress. We further hypothesized that a reciprocal response may occur during periods of heat stress that results in a greater risk of fecal shedding in subclinically-infected animals.
Starting in October 2002, we invoked a testing regime that included multiple testing of 720 individual adult cows over each of four seasons including spring, summer, fall, and winter. We collected serum on a cyclic, monthly basis from three random groupings of cows, and, based on the ELISA results, collected fecal samples from the 20% of cows with the highest S/P ratios. We continued to sample in this manner for the period of one year and at the end of that period, analyzed the serum en masse. The ELISA outcome values were treated both as categorical and continuous variables (e.g., S/P ratio). The potential lagged effects of heat stress on S/P ratio, as well as the potential for a change in test result (negative to positive or vice versa) due to heat stress were assessed. The results for fecal culture were analyzed on a categorical scale and were compared to the ELISA results to explore the possibility of a reciprocal response. In the present study, we did not observe any of the significant seasonal effects of heat stress on S/P ratios and proportion seropositive to MAP that were observed in the historical (and less valid) cross-sectional time-series data conducted in 2001. In addition, we found no evidence to support a hypothesis linking seasonal heat stress to the risk of fecal culture positivity for the causative bacterium for Johne??s disease.