Collaborative work was financed by the EU to develop and assess new diagnostic tools that can differentiate between bovine brucellosis and bovine infections due to Yersinia enterocolitica O:9 either in conjunction with, or as an alternative to, the classical serological, bacteriological or allergic skin tests. Sixteen heifers were experimentally infected with Brucella abortus biovar 1 (five heifers), Brucella suis biovar 2 (two heifers), Y. enterocolitica O:9 (six heifers) and Y. enterocolitica O:3 (three heifers). Four heifers, naturally infected with Y. enterocolitica O:9 that presented aspecific brucellosis serological reactions were also included in the experiment. A self-limited infection was induced in cattle by B. suis biovar 2. All the brucellosis serological tests used, i.e. the slow agglutination test (SAW), the Rose Bengal test (RB), the complement fixation test (CFT), indirect and competitive ELISA's, lacked specificity when used to analyze sera from Y. enterocolitica O:9 infected animals. A Yersinia outer membrane proteins (YOPs)-ELISA was also used and although the test is able to detect a Yersinia group infection, it provided no evidence of whether or not there is a possible brucellosis infection when dual infections are present. The brucellergen IFN-gamma test showed a lack of specificity also. The only test that was proven to be specific is the brucellergen skin test. All brucellosis serological tests, except the indirect ELISA, were limited in their ability to detect B. abortus persistently infected animals. Based on these experimental studies, a strategy was implemented as part of the year 2001 Belgian Brucellosis Eradication Program to substantiate the eradication of bovine brucellosis. Epidemiological inquiries have identified risk factors associated with aspecific serological reactions, possible transmission and infection of cattle by B. suis biovar 2 from infected wild boars; and both legal and administrative measures taken by the veterinary services. No cases of bovine brucellosis have been confirmed in Belgium since March 2000.
Copyright 2002 Elsevier Science B.V.