The ways in which bacteria cause Johne's disease in cows worldwide will be the focus of a new study conducted at The Roslin Institute and Moredun Research Institute in the U.K. that will also examine the bacterial genes that play a role in the disease.
The £1 million study, funded by the U.K. government’s Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council, will inform the design of strategies to control and treat these infections, the announcement from the Roslin Institute said.
Johne's disease is a common, chronic disease of the gut of cows and sheep caused by infection with Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP).
The condition has a significant impact on the health and welfare of cattle and sheep, with economic losses associated with reduced productivity and high mortality in the chronic stage, Roslin said.
Johne's is an insidious and increasing problem worldwide, with no effective control measures in cattle other than testing and slaughter.
At early stages following infection, animals show little evidence of the disease, making it difficult to detect and easy for infection to spread unnoticed, Roslin said. This is partly because the bacterium is able to hide from and manipulate the immune system.
A series of research experiments will provide insight into how MAP interacts with cells in the gut, how it survives and how it replicates.
Roslin professor Jayne Hope, study lead and personal chair of immunology, said, "Our study brings together a team of researchers with complementary expertise and established models of infection. Our aim is to determine key factors in the animals and the pathogen that control entry in the gut. These factors could be targets of future intervention strategies to control Johne’s disease."