Contribution of environmental mycobacteria to false-positive serum ELISA results for paratuberculosis

Jason B. Osterstock Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843

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Geoffrey T. Fosgate Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843

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Bo Norby Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843

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Elizabeth J. B. Manning Department of Pathobiological Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706

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Michael T. Collins Department of Pathobiological Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706

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Allen J. Roussel Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843

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Abstract

Objective—To evaluate the effect of exposure to environmental mycobacteria on results of 2 commercial ELISAs for paratuberculosis in cattle.

Design—Experimental trial.

Animals—19 weaned crossbred beef calves.

Procedures—Calves were inoculated SC with 1 of 5 mycobacterial isolates (3 calves/isolate) derived from herds with high proportions of false-positive serologic reactions for paratuberculosis, Mycobacterium avium subsp paratuberculosis (MAP; positive control inoculum; 2 calves), or mineral oil (negative control inoculum; 2 calves). Sera were assessed at intervals by use of 2 ELISAs (A and B) for paratuberculosis in cattle, and all calves underwent tuberculosis testing at the end of the study.

Results—Neither mineral oil–inoculated calf had positive results with either ELISA during the study. Both MAP-inoculated calves were identified as seropositive via ELISA-A, and 1 calf was identified as seropositive via ELISA-B. By use of ELISA-A, ≥ 1 false-positive reaction over time was detected in 2, 3, 3, and 1 of the 3 calves injected with Mycobacterium avium, Mycobacterium intracellulare, Mycobacterium scrofulaceum, or Mycobacterium terrae, respectively. By use of ELISA-B, only M scrofulaceum induced false-positive reactions (2/3 calves). Calves that had at least 1 positive ELISA-A result were more likely to be classified as suspect reactors via the caudal fold tuberculosis test.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—False-positive serologic reactions may occur during use of commercially available ELISAs for paratuberculosis in calves experimentally exposed to environmental mycobacteria; naturally occurring exposures with these mycobacteria may represent a cause for high proportions of false-positive serologic reactions for paratu-berculosis in some cattle herds.

Abstract

Objective—To evaluate the effect of exposure to environmental mycobacteria on results of 2 commercial ELISAs for paratuberculosis in cattle.

Design—Experimental trial.

Animals—19 weaned crossbred beef calves.

Procedures—Calves were inoculated SC with 1 of 5 mycobacterial isolates (3 calves/isolate) derived from herds with high proportions of false-positive serologic reactions for paratuberculosis, Mycobacterium avium subsp paratuberculosis (MAP; positive control inoculum; 2 calves), or mineral oil (negative control inoculum; 2 calves). Sera were assessed at intervals by use of 2 ELISAs (A and B) for paratuberculosis in cattle, and all calves underwent tuberculosis testing at the end of the study.

Results—Neither mineral oil–inoculated calf had positive results with either ELISA during the study. Both MAP-inoculated calves were identified as seropositive via ELISA-A, and 1 calf was identified as seropositive via ELISA-B. By use of ELISA-A, ≥ 1 false-positive reaction over time was detected in 2, 3, 3, and 1 of the 3 calves injected with Mycobacterium avium, Mycobacterium intracellulare, Mycobacterium scrofulaceum, or Mycobacterium terrae, respectively. By use of ELISA-B, only M scrofulaceum induced false-positive reactions (2/3 calves). Calves that had at least 1 positive ELISA-A result were more likely to be classified as suspect reactors via the caudal fold tuberculosis test.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—False-positive serologic reactions may occur during use of commercially available ELISAs for paratuberculosis in calves experimentally exposed to environmental mycobacteria; naturally occurring exposures with these mycobacteria may represent a cause for high proportions of false-positive serologic reactions for paratu-berculosis in some cattle herds.

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