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Objective—To determine the feasibility of qualifying individuals or groups of Yellowstone National Park bison as free from brucellosis.
Sample—Serum, blood, and various samples from live bison and tissues taken at necropsy from 214 bison over 7 years.
Procedures—Blood was collected from bison every 30 to 45 days for serologic tests and microbiological culture of blood for Brucella abortus. Seropositive bison were euthanized until all remaining bison had 2 consecutive negative test results. Half the seronegative bison were randomly euthanized, and tissues were collected for bacteriologic culture. The remaining seronegative bison were bred, and blood was tested at least twice per year. Cow-calf pairs were sampled immediately after calving and 6 months after calving for evidence of B abortus.
Results—Post-enrollment serial testing for B abortus antibodies revealed no bison that seroconverted after 205 days (first cohort) and 180 days (second cohort). During initial serial testing, 85% of bison seroconverted within 120 days after removal from the infected population. Brucella abortus was not cultured from any euthanized seronegative bison (0/88). After parturition, no cows or calves had a positive test result for B abortus antibodies, nor was B abortus cultured from any samples.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results suggested it is feasible to qualify brucellosis-free bison from an infected herd following quarantine procedures as published in the USDA APHIS brucellosis eradication uniform methods and rules. Latent infection was not detected in this sample of bison when applying the USDA APHIS quarantine protocol.
American bison (Bison bison) quarantine protocols were established to prevent transmission of brucellosis outside the Greater Yellowstone Area, while allowing for distribution of wild bison for conservation and cultural purposes. Quarantine standards require rigorous testing over 900 days which has led to the release of over 200 bison to Native American tribes. Standards were evaluated using 15 years of laboratory and management data to minimize the burden of testing and increase the number of brucellosis-free bison available for distribution.
All bison (n = 578) from Yellowstone National Park were corralled by the National Park Service and United States Department of Agriculture.
A statistical and management evaluation of the bison quarantine program was performed. Bayesian latent-class modeling was used to predict the probability of nondetection of a seroreactor at various time points, as well as the probability of seroconversion by days in quarantine.
At 300 days, 1 in 1,000 infected bison (0.0014 probability) would not be detected but could potentially seroconvert; the seroconversion model predicted 99.9% would seroconvert by day 294, and 12.8% of bison enrolled in quarantine would seroconvert over time. Using a 300-day quarantine period, it would take 30 years to potentially miss 1 seroreactor out of over 8,000 bison enrolled in the quarantine program.
Reducing the quarantine program requirements from over 900 days to 300 days would allow management of quarantined bison in coordination with seasonal movement of bison herds and triple the number of brucellosis-free bison available for distribution.