Objective—To evaluate sensitivities at the herd level of test strategies used in the Voluntary Johne's Disease Herd Status Program (VJDHSP) and alternative test strategies for detecting dairy cattle herds infected with Mycobacterium paratuberculosis.
Design—Nonrandom cross-sectional study.
Sample Population—64 dairy herds from Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Colorado, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Fifty-six herds had at least 1 cow shedding M paratuberculosis in feces; the other 8 herds were free from paratuberculosis.
Procedure—For all adult cows in each herd, serum samples were tested for antibodies to M paratuberculosis with an ELISA, and fecal samples were submitted for bacterial culture for M paratuberculosis. Sensitivities at the herd level (probability of detecting infected herd) of various testing strategies were then evaluated.
Results—Sensitivity at the herd level of the testing strategy used in level 1 of the VJDHSP (use of the ELISA to test samples from 30 cows followed by confirmatory bacterial culture of feces from cows with positive ELISA result) ranged from 33 to 84% for infected herds, depending on percentage of cows in the herd with positive bacterial culture results. If follow- up bacterial culture was not used to confirm positive ELISA results, sensitivity ranged from 70 to 93%, but probability of identifying uninfected herds as infected was 89%.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results suggest that the testing strategy used in the VJDHSP will fail to identify as infected most dairy herds with a low prevalence of paratuberculosis. A higher percentage of infected herds was detected if follow-up bacterial culture was not used, but this test strategy was associated with a high probability of misclassifying uninfected herds. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2002;220: 1053–1057)