Disease management at the wildlife-livestock interface: using whole-genome sequencing to study the role of elk in Mycobacterium bovis transmission in Michigan, USA

L.C.M. Salvador, D.J. O’Brien, M.K. Cosgrove, T. P. Stuber, A. Schooley, J. Crispell, S. Church, Y.T., Grohn, S. Robbe-Austerman, Rowland Kao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The role of wildlife in the persistence and spread of livestock diseases is difficult to quantify and control. These difficulties are exacerbated when several wildlife species are potentially involved. Bovine tuberculosis (bTB), caused by Mycobacterium bovis, has experienced an ecological shift in Michigan, with spillover from cattle leading to an endemically infected white‐tailed deer (deer) population. It has potentially substantial implications for the health and well‐being of both wildlife and livestock and incurs a significant economic cost to industry and government. Deer are known to act as a reservoir of infection, with evidence of M. bovis transmission to sympatric elk and cattle populations. However, the role of elk in the circulation of M. bovis is uncertain – they are few in number, but range further than deer, so may enable long distance spread. Combining Whole Genome Sequences (WGS) for M. bovis isolates from exceptionally well‐observed populations of elk, deer and cattle with spatio‐temporal locations, we use spatial and Bayesian phylogenetic analyses to show strong spatio‐temporal admixture of M. bovis isolates. Clustering of bTB in elk and cattle suggests either intraspecies transmission within the two populations, or exposure to a common source. However, there is no support for significant pathogen transfer amongst elk and cattle, and our data are in accordance with existing evidence that interspecies transmission in Michigan is likely only maintained by deer. This study demonstrates the value of whole‐genome population studies of M. bovis transmission at the wildlife‐livestock interface, providing insights into bTB management in an endemic system.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMolecular Ecology
Early online date26 Feb 2019
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Feb 2019

Keywords

  • wildlife-livestock interface
  • bovine tuberculosis
  • whole genome sequencing
  • interspecies transmission
  • spillover
  • Bayesian

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