Testing Eurasian wild boar piglets for serum antibodies against Mycobacterium bovis

Animal tuberculosis (TB) caused by infection with Mycobacterium bovis and closely related members of the M. tuberculosis complex (MTC), is often reported in the Eurasian wild boar (Sus scrofa). Tests detecting antibodies against MTC antigens are valuable tools for TB monitoring and control in suids. However, only limited knowledge exists on serology test performance in 2–6 month-old piglets. In this age-class, recent infections might cause lower antibody levels and lower test sensitivity.

We examined 126 wild boar piglets from a TB-endemic site using 6 antibody detection tests in order to assess test performance. Bacterial culture (n = 53) yielded a M. bovis infection prevalence of 33.9%, while serum antibody prevalence estimated by different tests ranged from 19% to 38%, reaching sensitivities between 15.4% and 46.2% for plate ELISAs and between 61.5% and 69.2% for rapid immunochromatographic tests based on dual path platform (DPP) technology. The Cohen kappa coefficient of agreement between DPP WTB (Wildlife TB) assay and culture results was moderate (0.45) and all other serological tests used had poor to fair agreements. This survey revealed the ability of several tests for detecting serum antibodies against the MTC antigens in 2–6 month-old naturally infected wild boar piglets. The best performance was demonstrated for DPP tests.

The results confirmed our initial hypothesis of a lower sensitivity of serology for detecting M. bovis-infected piglets, as compared to older wild boar. Certain tests, notably the rapid animal-side tests, can contribute to TB control strategies by enabling the setup of test and cull schemes or improving pre-movement testing. However, sub-optimal test performance in piglets as compared to that in older wild boar should be taken into account.

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