The role that wildlife may play in the transmission of Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (Map), the causative agent of Johne’s disease (JD), and the potential consequences of infection in these populations are being given increasing consideration. A yearling male Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis canadensis) from southwestern Alberta, Canada, was found infected with Map in August 2009. Clinical signs of emaciation and diarrhea and histologic findings of diffuse granulomatous enteritis of the distal ileum, lymphadenitis of the mesenteric lymph nodes, and lymphangitis of the ileum were similar to previously described cases of JD in bighorn sheep. Infection with Map was confirmed by bacterial isolation through fecal culture, acid-fast staining, and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) of IS900. The Map1506 gene was sequenced, and the isolate was identified as a Cattle (Type II) strain. In a follow-up herd-level survey, three of 44 fecal samples (7%) from individual bighorn sheep from the same herd as the index case were PCR-positive and identified as Type II Map strains. Twenty-five samples from a distant bighorn population were negative. Additional strain typing of the isolates from the index case and the positive fecal samples was done by sequencing three discriminatory short sequence repeat (SSR) regions. All four SSR profiles differed from one another, suggesting multiple introductions or a long-existing circulation of Map within this bighorn population. Detailed molecular analyses are essential for understanding and managing diseases at the wildlife-livestock interface.
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