Paratuberculosis is an economically important disease of dairy cattle caused by Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (Map). The role of nonruminant, nondomestic animals in the epidemiology of paratuberculosis in cattle is unclear. To examine nonruminant, nondomestic animals for the presence of Map, 25 feral cats, nine mice (species unknown), eight rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus), six raccoons (Procyon lotor), and three opossums (Didelphis virginiana) were collected from a midwestern dairy with known Map-infected cattle. Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis was isolated from the mesenteric lymph node from seven of 25 (28%) feral cats. Ileum was culture-positive for three of these seven cats, and an isolation of Map was also made from the ileum of one of nine (11%) mice. Tissue samples from other species were negative as determined by Map culture; microscopic lesions consistent with paratuberculosis were not seen in any animal. Restriction fragment polymorphism analysis of isolates from cats and dairy cattle suggest interspecies transmission. The means by which interspecies transmission occurred may be through ingestion of Map-contaminated feces or waste milk or through ingestion of Map-infected prey. Shedding of Map from infected cats was not evaluated. The epidemiologic role of Map-infected feral cats on dairy farms requires further investigation.
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Vol. 41 • No. 3