Brucellosis, caused by bacteria of the genus Brucella, is a contagious disease that causes economic loss to owners of domestic animals due to loss of progeny and milk yield. Because cattle, sheep, goats, and to a lesser extent pigs are considered to be the source of human brucellosis, serological tests have been used to screen domestic animals for antibodies against Brucella. Although the serological tests helped to eradicate brucellosis in many countries, serological tests are not always adequate to detect latent carriers of Brucella. Therefore, the use of the skin delayed-type hypersensitivity (SDTH) test, which is independent of circulating antibodies, might improve the diagnosis of brucellosis. In the literature, however, there are conflicting reports as to the value of the SDTH test for the diagnosis of brucellosis. Some studies consider the test unreliable, whereas others advocate its use because it detects brucellosis earlier than serological tests. The objectives of this study were therefore to assess the characteristics of the SDTH test, to select a Brucella strain that will yield a suitable brucellin for use in the field, and to determine whether the use of serological tests in combination with the SDTH test improves the detection of brucellosis. The results of this study clearly show that the SDTH test detects latent carriers of Brucella and confirms brucellosis in cattle with ambiguous serological test results. Brucellins prepared from smooth or mucoid strains of Brucella are better suited for use in the field than brucellins prepared from rough strains because they detect brucellosis in cattle with acute as well as chronic infection. The SDTH test is highly specific (99.3% specificity), and repeated testing of naive cattle or cattle infected with microorganisms that serologically cross-react with Brucella does not sensitize cattle to subsequent SDTH tests. However, it is possible that some naive cattle may serologically react to the injection of brucellin. The effect of these serological reactions on the sero-diagnosis of brucellosis is limited, because cattle may only now and then react serologically either with the serum agglutination test (SAT) or the complement fixation test (CFT). Nevertheless, cattle infected with microorganisms that serologically cross-react with Brucella may test seropositive for brucellosis 4 to 7 weeks after injection of brucellin, depending on the cross-reacting microorganism. The value of the SDTH test for the diagnosis of brucellosis was demonstrated after an outbreak of brucellosis. When the SDTH test was used in combination with SAT and CFT at diagnostic threshold ≥2 mm or ≥1 mm (increase in skinfold thickness), respectively, 39/44 (88%) or 42/44 (95%) of the infected cattle were detected compared with only 27/44 (61%) when SAT and CFT were used. When cattle in areas of low prevalence or in areas free from brucellosis are tested with the SDTH test an increase ≥2 mm in skinfold thickness should be considered indicative of infection. When the control and eradication of brucellosis is based on test-and-slaughter, an increase of ≥1 mm in skinfold thickness should be considered indicative of infection. Repeated serological testing complemented with the SDTH test in this programme will shorten the quarantine (movement control) period of a suspect herd, limiting the financial loss incurred during outbreaks of the disease. Consequently, since the SDTH test usually does not interfere with the serological diagnosis and can safely be used to establish the infection status of cattle in a suspect herd, it is opportune to consider adding the SDTH test to the procedure currently used to diagnose brucellosis in individual animals.
|Publication status||Published - 2000|