Epidemiology of Mycobacterium bovis in free-ranging white-tailed deer, Michigan, USA, 1995-2000

Prev Vet Med. 2002 May 30;54(1):47-63. doi: 10.1016/s0167-5877(02)00010-7.


An endemic area of bovine tuberculosis (TB) (Mycobacterium bovis) currently affecting wild white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in northern lower Michigan, USA, constitutes the first self-sustaining outbreak of the infection in free-ranging North American cervids. Given this precedent, epidemiologic insights gained from the outbreak afford the opportunity to guide not only current surveillance and intervention but also control efforts for future outbreaks involving wildlife reservoirs. Our specific objectives were to evaluate retrospective data from field surveillance conducted from 1995 to 2000 to determine apparent prevalence, trends in apparent prevalence, and the effects of various factors on the odds of being M. bovis positive. Data were gathered from post-mortem examinations of 62,560 wild deer collected from all 83 Michigan counties. Records of survey method, sex, age, geographic area and infection status as determined by mycobacterial culture were subjected to trend analysis and multivariable logistic regression. Apparent prevalence for the period was 0.54% (336/62,560) statewide. Prevalence varied widely with geographic area, but significantly decreased since 1995 in the core area of the outbreak-which coincided with implementation of control strategies. Significant risk factors were geographic area, sex, age, and the sex-by-age interaction. The survey method by which deer were obtained for testing was not a predictor of infection. Our results to date suggest an outbreak characterized by broad areas of very low prevalence surrounding focal areas where prevalence is sometimes orders-of-magnitude higher (e.g., deer originating from the core area were up to 147 times more likely to be TB positive than deer from other areas). Our results also identify older male deer as most likely to be M. bovis positive (OR=11.3, 95% CI 3.2, 40.3 for bucks > or =5 years vs. does < or =1.5 years)-an observation consistent with the biology and behavior of the species. Synthesizing these results with those of other ongoing investigations, we hypothesize a two-stage model of disease transmission where TB is maintained at very low prevalence in matriarchal groups, with primary dissemination of the disease attributable to the dispersal and movements of bucks (as well as to the large aggregations of animals created by human activities).

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild
  • Cattle
  • Deer / microbiology*
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Female
  • Male
  • Michigan / epidemiology
  • Mycobacterium bovis / isolation & purification*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Prevalence
  • Tuberculosis / epidemiology*