University of Wyoming veterinary scientists are working on a test that will differentiate two types of brucellosis, a disease that has caused concern among cattle ranchers in Wyoming.
Epidemiologist Brant Schumaker is leading the project. He said the name brucellosis applies to a group of infections caused by different strains of a bacteria called Brucella.
“Here in Wyoming we have cattle brucellosis, which affects cattle, elk, and bison in the Greater Yellowstone area,” Schumaker said. “Feral swine carry a different, related bacteria that can be transmitted to both cattle and domestic swine operations in those areas where animals come in contact with them.”
Feral swine, or wild hogs, have spread to at least 36 states, not including Wyoming. Schumaker said if the animals do make it to the state, it will mean headaches for ranchers.
“Cattle brucellosis currently carries a very strong regulatory response. The cattle producer would have to be quarantined, and test their animals,” Schumaker said. “Unfortunately, the current antibody tests for brucellosis do not discriminate between swine and cattle brucellosis.”
This is already a problem in Texas, where collaborators from Texas A&M University are collecting samples for the study. Producers whose livestock have contracted cattle brucellosis are required by regulations to quarantine and test their herds. It’s possible to distinguish swine and cattle brucellosis, but Schumaker said current methods are costly and often inaccurate. He is hoping the research will change that.
Schumaker said swine brucellosis is less regulated because wild hogs are so difficult to control. The disease can spread through milk and secretions and can pose a public health risk if not contained. Earlier this month, the Texas Department of Health warned a human tested positive for brucellosis after drinking raw milk in that state.