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Pilot project: Infectious tuberculosis = "open tuberculosis" - does this definition underestimate the pathogen transmission in red deer?

In a large-scale monitoring programme along the Alpine chain, tortz, recognised as tuberculosis-free in Germany, confirmed the presence of Mycobacterium caprae in red deer over four hunting periods. A mutual transfer between wild and domestic animals is very likely due to the predominant use of common habitats (alpine pastures/alps) as well as due to the same DNA fingerprints and genome sequences from cattle and red deer isolated M. caprae strains. In most cases, the findings in wild animals do not indicate a so-called "open" tuberculosis, since the pathogens were found in encapsulated form in individual lymph nodes. The risk of transmission to humans would therefore be classified as rather low. Nevertheless, it will be investigated through which excretory and transmission pathways mycobacteria are represented in red deer and whether there is a possible risk of infection for humans and animals.

This pilot project is intended to investigate these questions. For this purpose, a representative number of red deer from so-called "hot spot" areas will be investigated. As sample material, relevant excreta and excreta of the animals will be examined in addition to the most frequently affected organs (especially lymph nodes). The high number of animals (>1000) as well as the targeted sampling of endemic areas allow a meaningful and reliable generation of new, valid data from excretion- and transmission-relevant samples. The initial funding by the BMEL will provide insights into this zoonosis, which may define a need for further projects in the sense of the One Health approach.

Since samples of red deer are rarely acquired, the project team offers to collect samples for other working groups and questions. Interested scientists should contact the project management directly.

Project Coordination: Dr. Karin Schwaiger (LMU Munich, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine)

Funding period: 26 months

Project start: 15.10.2014

Sponsor: BMEL