Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (Map) is the causative agent of paratuberculosis or Johne's disease, a chronic enteric disease of domestic ruminants as well as some nondomestic ruminants. Paratuberculosis is characterized by a protracted subclinical phase followed by clinical signs such as diarrhea, weight loss, and hypoproteinemia. Fecal shedding of Map is characteristic of both the subclinical and clinical phases, and it is important in disease transmission. Lesions of paratuberculosis are characterized by chronic granulomatous enteritis and mesenteric lymphadenitis. Animal models of paratuberculosis that simulate all aspects of the disease are rare. Oral inoculation of 9-day-old white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) on 3 June 2002 with 1.87×1010 colony-forming units of Map strain K10 resulted in clinical disease (soft to diarrheic feces) as early as 146 days after inoculation; lesions consistent with paratuberculosis were observed in animals at the termination of the study. Intermittent fecal shedding of Map was seen between 28 and 595 days (4 March 2004) after inoculation. These findings suggest that experimental oral inoculation of white-tailed deer fawns may mimic all aspects of subclinical and clinical paratuberculosis.
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