Paratuberculosis (Johne's disease) was long considered only a disease of ruminants. Recently non-ruminant wildlife species have been shown to harbor Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis, the causative organism of paratuberculosis. We review the known non-ruminant wildlife host range of M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis and consider their role in the epidemiology of paratuberculosis in domestic ruminant livestock. Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis has been isolated from lagomorph, canid, mustelid, corvid, and murid species. In agricultural environments domestic ruminants may contact wildlife and/or their excreta when grazing or feeding on farm-stored feed contaminated with wildlife feces, opening up the possibility of inter-species transmission. Of the wildlife species known to harbor M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis in Scotland, the rabbit is likely to pose the greatest risk to grazing livestock. Paratuberculosis in domestic ruminants is a notoriously difficult disease to control; the participation of non-ruminant wildlife in the epidemiology of the disease may partially account for this difficulty.
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Vol. 39 • No. 1