Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) imposes an important financial burden on the British cattle industry, yet despite intense efforts to control its spread, incidence is currently rising. Surveillance for bTB is based on a skin test that measures an immunological response to tuberculin. Cattle that fail the test are classified as "reactors" and slaughtered. Recent studies have identified genetic markers associated with the reaction of cattle to the tuberculin test. At marker INRA111 a relatively common '22' genotype occurs significantly more frequently in non-reactor cattle. Here we test the possibility that the putative protective '22' genotype does not confer resistance but instead causes cattle that carry it to react less strongly to the prescribed test, and hence avoid slaughter, potentially even though they are infected. We show that, after controlling for age and breed, '22' cattle react less strongly to the immunological challenge and may therefore be less likely to be classified as a reactor. These results highlight the potential discrepancy between infection and test status and imply that the effectiveness of the test-and-slaughter policy may be being compromised by selection for cattle that are genetically predisposed to react less strongly to tuberculin.
- Animal Husbandry
- Genetic Markers
- Genetic Predisposition to Disease
- Tuberculosis, Bovine