Our objective in this prospective study was to determine the natural course of Brucella abortus infection in cohorts of seropositive and seronegative, female bison (Bison bison) and their offspring in Yellowstone National Park (YNP) for 5 yr. We collected specimens from 53 adult females and 25 calves at least once and from 45 adults and 22 calves more than once. Annual seroconversion rates (negative to positive) were relatively high (23% for calves and juvenile bison, 6% in the total sample of adult female bison in our study, and 11% in the adult females that began the study as seronegatives). Antibody was not protective against infection, even for calves that passively received antibody from an infected mother’s colostrum. Antibody levels stayed remarkably constant, with only a slow decline over time. We found only two seroconversions from a weak positive status to negative. Infected bison aborted and shed viable bacteria. Risk of shedding infective Brucella was highest for bison in the 2 yr following seroconversion from negative to positive. In one bison, we detected shedding for 3 yr following seroconversion. Regardless of serostatus of dams and neonates, most calves were seronegative by 5 mo of age. There was no relationship between the antibody status of the dam and the tendency of a calf to seroconvert to positive during the duration of the study.
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Vol. 45 • No. 3