This study aimed to maximize the sensitivity of bovine tuberculosis detection in living wild fallow deer (Dama dama) under field conditions. We evaluated the rapid test (RT; CervidTB STAT-PAK Assay, Chembio Diagnostic Systems, Inc., USA) in comparison with the comparative cervical skin test (CCT). A total of 134 fallow deer were captured between January and March 2008. At time 0, 0.1 ml of avian purified protein derivative (avian PPD; Cooper-Zeltia, Spain), 0.1 ml bovine PPD (Cooper-Zeltia, Spain), 0.1 ml negative control PBS and 0.1 ml of a positive control (the mitogen phytohaemagglutinin, PHA; containing 250 mg PHA, diluted in PBS) were injected intradermally at four shaved sites in the neck. The skin fold thickness at each injection site was measured at time 0 and 72 h (3 repeats each time). Animals with a skin test response of 2mm or more at the bovine PPD injection site and animals with any visible reactivity in the RT were necropsied and tissues submitted for culture and for histopathology. A total of 36 fallow deer were considered reactors to bovine PPD or to the RT (apparent prevalence 27%). Regarding both bovine PPD reactivity and the skin fold increase at the PHA injection site, we found significant effects of age and sex by age interaction. Adult males had the largest responses. Mycobacterium bovis was isolated from lymphoid tissues of 21 fallow deer. Skin test sensitivity, as compared to M. bovis culture confirmed deer, was 80.1% (17/21). But, the CCT alone would have missed 4 of 21 culture confirmed animals. RT sensitivity, based on culture confirmed deer, was also 80.1% (17/21). Similarly, the RT alone would have missed another 4 of 21 culture confirmed deer. However, combining the CCT and the RT allowed for detecting all 21 culture positive fallow deer. We conclude that the combined application of the RT and the skin testing can maximize the sensitivity of bTB detection in living fallow deer, thus facilitating control programs for wildlife disease surveillance.
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