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Pathogenesis of Mycobacterium bovis Infection: the Badger Model As a Paradigm for Understanding Tuberculosis in Animals

Tuberculosis in animals is caused principally by infection with Mycobacterium bovis and the potential for transmission of infection to humans is often the fundamental driver for surveillance of disease in livestock and wild animals. However, with such a vast array of species susceptible to infection, it is often extremely difficult to gain a detailed understanding of the pathogenesis of infection––a key component of the epidemiology in all affected species. This is important because the development of disease control strategies in animals is determined chiefly by an understanding of the epidemiology of the disease. The most revealing data from which to formulate theories on pathogenesis are that observed in susceptible hosts infected by natural transmission. These data are gathered from detailed studies of the distribution of gross and histological lesions, and the presence and distribution of infection as determined by highly sensitive bacteriology procedures. The information can also be used to establish the baseline for evaluating experimental model systems. The European badger (Meles meles) is one of a very small number of wild animal hosts where detailed knowledge of the pathogenesis of M. bovisinfection has been generated from observations in natural-infected animals. By drawing parallels from other animal species, an experimental badger infection model has also been established where infection of the lower respiratory tract mimics infection and the disease observed in natural-infected badgers. This has facilitated the development of diagnostic tests and testing of vaccines that have the potential to control the disease in badgers. In this review, we highlight the fundamental principles of how detailed knowledge of pathogenesis can be used to evaluate specific intervention strategies, and how the badger model may be a paradigm for understanding pathogenesis of tuberculosis in any affected wild animal species.

 

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