In Ireland, new cases of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) are detected using both field and abattoir surveillance (More and Good, 2006). Field surveillance is conducted through annual testing of all cattle using the single intradermal comparative tuberculin test (SICTT). An animal may be deemed a 'standard inconclusive reactor' (SIR) to the SICTT if the bovine response is >2mm and between 1 and 4mm>the avian response. The herdowner then has three choices for the management of the SIR: option 1 is to have the animal retested after a minimum period of 42 days (an inconclusive reactor retest, IRR), option 2 is to slaughter the SIR and, provided the animal has no visible lesions, have a full herd test 42 days after the SIR leaves the herd, option 3 is to slaughter the SIR and have the lymph nodes examined using histology and/or culture for bTB. In the current study, we examine the bTB risk for SIRs both at slaughter prior to the IRR and at the IRR, and the future bTB risk of TIR animals (so-called 'transient SIRs'; SIR animals with a negative SICTT result at the subsequent IRR) that moved from the herd of disclosure within 6 months of the IRR. We also investigate factors associated with the future bTB status of SIRs at slaughter prior to the IRR and at the IRR. The study population included all SIRs identified in Ireland between 2005 and 2009 inclusive in a herd otherwise Officially TB free (OTF). Between 11.8% and 21.4% of SIRs slaughtered prior to the IRR were confirmed bTB positive at post mortem (using histology or culture if histology was not definitive), compared to 0.13-0.22% of SICTT -ve cohort animals. The post mortem bTB lesion rate of SIRs is lower than the lesion rate reported for reactor animals between 2005 and 2009 of between 34% and 39%, reflecting the doubtful infection status of these animals. Between 20.3% and 27.9% of herds were restricted at the IRR. The herd restriction rate amongst the national herd between 2005 and 2009 varied from 5.09% to 6.02%. TIRs that moved out of the disclosing herd within 6 months of the IRR were 12 times more likely to be bTB positive at the next test/slaughter compared to all animals in the national herd. The same increased risk did not apply to the SICTT -ve cohort animals that moved out of the same herds at the same time. Based on a range of measures, SIRs and TIRs are each at increased bTB risk into the future. Consequently, differential treatment of TIR animals would be justified.
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