Combining Salmonella Dublin genome information and contact-tracing to substantiate a new approach for improved detection of infectious transmission routes in cattle populations

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This study presents a new method for detection of between-herd livestock movements to facilitate disease tracing and more accurately describe network behaviour of relevance for spread of infectious diseases, including within-livestock business risk-carrying contacts that are not necessarily recorded anywhere. The study introduces and substantiates the concept of grouping livestock herds into business-units based on ownership and location in the tracing analysis of animal movement-based contact networks. To test the utility of this approach, whole core genome sequencing of 196 Salmonella Dublin isolates stored from previous surveillance and project activities was combined with information on cattle movements recorded in the Danish Cattle Database between 1997 and 2017. The aim was to investigate alternative explanations for S. Dublin circulation in groups of herds connected by ownership, but without complete records of livestock movements. The EpiContactTrace R-package was used to trace the contact networks between businesses and compare the network characteristics of businesses sharing strains of S. Dublin with different levels of genetic relatedness. The ownership-only definition proved to be an unreliable grouping approach for large businesses, which could have internal distances larger than 250 km and therefore do not represent useful epidemiological units. Therefore, the grouping was refined using spatial analysis. More than 90% of final business units formed were composed of one single cattle property, whereas multi-property businesses could reach up to eight properties in a given year, with up to 15 cattle herds having been part of the same business through the study period. Results showed markedly higher probabilities of introduction of infectious animals between proposed businesses from which the same clone of S. Dublin had been isolated, when compared to businesses with non-related strains, thus substantiating the business-unit as an important epidemiological feature to consider in contact network analysis and tracing of infection routes. However, this approach may overestimate real-life contacts between cattle properties and putatively overestimate the degree of risk-contacts within each business, since it is based solely on information about property ownership and location. This does not consider administrative and individual farmers behaviours that essentially keep two properties separated. Despite this, we conclude that defining epidemiological units based on businesses is a promising approach for future disease tracing tasks.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPreventive Veterinary Medicine
Number of pages104,531
Publication statusPublished - 2020

    Research areas

  • Animal movements, Cattle diseases, Contact tracing, Molecular epidemiology, Salmonella Dublin, Trade networks

ID: 202979752