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1.  How commercial and non-commercial swine producers move pigs in Scotland: a detailed descriptive analysis 
BMC Veterinary Research  2014;10:140.
The impact of non-commercial producers on disease spread via livestock movement is related to their level of interaction with other commercial actors within the industry. Although understanding these relationships is crucial in order to identify likely routes of disease incursion and transmission prior to disease detection, there has been little research in this area due to the difficulties of capturing movements of small producers with sufficient resolution. Here, we used the Scottish Livestock Electronic Identification and Traceability (ScotEID) database to describe the movement patterns of different pig production systems which may affect the risk of disease spread within the swine industry. In particular, we focused on the role of small pig producers.
Between January 2012 and May 2013, 23,169 batches of pigs were recorded moving animals between 2382 known unique premises. Although the majority of movements (61%) were to a slaughterhouse, the non-commercial and the commercial sectors of the Scottish swine industry coexist, with on- and off-movement of animals occurring relatively frequently. For instance, 13% and 4% of non-slaughter movements from professional producers were sent to a non-assured commercial producer or to a small producer, respectively; whereas 43% and 22% of movements from non-assured commercial farms were sent to a professional or a small producer, respectively. We further identified differences between producer types in several animal movement characteristics which are known to increase the risk of disease spread. Particularly, the distance travelled and the use of haulage were found to be significantly different between producers.
These results showed that commercial producers are not isolated from the non-commercial sector of the Scottish swine industry and may frequently interact, either directly or indirectly. The observed patterns in the frequency of movements, the type of producers involved, the distance travelled and the use of haulage companies provide insights into the structure of the Scottish swine industry, but also highlight different features that may increase the risk of infectious diseases spread in both Scotland and the UK. Such knowledge is critical for developing more robust biosecurity and surveillance plans and better preparing Scotland against incursions of emerging swine diseases.
PMCID: PMC4082416  PMID: 24965915
Livestock movement; Risk of infection; Pig; Contingency planning
2.  E. coli O157 on Scottish cattle farms: Evidence of local spread and persistence using repeat cross-sectional data 
Escherichia coli (E. coli) O157 is a virulent zoonotic strain of enterohaemorrhagic E. coli. In Scotland (1998-2008) the annual reported rate of human infection is 4.4 per 100,000 population which is consistently higher than other regions of the UK and abroad. Cattle are the primary reservoir. Thus understanding infection dynamics in cattle is paramount to reducing human infections.
A large database was created for farms sampled in two cross-sectional surveys carried out in Scotland (1998 - 2004). A statistical model was generated to identify risk factors for the presence of E. coli O157 on farms. Specific hypotheses were tested regarding the presence of E. coli O157 on local farms and the farms previous status. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) profiles were further examined to ascertain whether local spread or persistence of strains could be inferred.
The presence of an E. coli O157 positive local farm (average distance: 5.96km) in the Highlands, North East and South West, farm size and the number of cattle moved onto the farm 8 weeks prior to sampling were significant risk factors for the presence of E. coli O157 on farms. Previous status of a farm was not a significant predictor of current status (p = 0.398). Farms within the same sampling cluster were significantly more likely to be the same PFGE type (p < 0.001), implicating spread of strains between local farms. Isolates with identical PFGE types were observed to persist across the two surveys, including 3 that were identified on the same farm, suggesting an environmental reservoir. PFGE types that were persistent were more likely to have been observed in human clinical infections in Scotland (p < 0.001) from the same time frame.
The results of this study demonstrate the spread of E. coli O157 between local farms and highlight the potential link between persistent cattle strains and human clinical infections in Scotland. This novel insight into the epidemiology of Scottish E. coli O157 paves the way for future research into the mechanisms of transmission which should help with the design of control measures to reduce E. coli O157 from livestock-related sources.
PMCID: PMC4022360  PMID: 24766709
E. coli O157; Epidemiology; Risk factor; Transmission; Persistence; PFGE
3.  Risk factors for bovine tuberculosis in low incidence regions related to the movements of cattle 
Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) remains difficult to eradicate from low incidence regions partly due to the imperfect sensitivity and specificity of routine intradermal tuberculin testing. Herds with unconfirmed reactors that are incorrectly classified as bTB-negative may be at risk of spreading disease, while those that are incorrectly classified as bTB-positive may be subject to costly disease eradication measures. This analysis used data from Scotland in the period leading to Officially Tuberculosis Free recognition (1) to investigate the risks associated with the movements of cattle from herds with different bTB risk classifications and (2) to identify herd demographic characteristics that may aid in the interpretation of tuberculin testing results.
From 2002 to 2009, for every herd with confirmed bTB positive cattle identified through routine herd testing, there was an average of 2.8 herds with at least one unconfirmed positive reactor and 18.9 herds with unconfirmed inconclusive reactors. Approximately 75% of confirmed bTB positive herds were detected through cattle with no known movements outside Scotland. At the animal level, cattle that were purchased from Scottish herds with unconfirmed positive reactors and a recent history importing cattle from endemic bTB regions were significantly more likely to react positively on routine intradermal tuberculin tests, while cattle purchased from Scottish herds with unconfirmed inconclusive reactors were significantly more likely to react inconclusively. Case-case comparisons revealed few demographic differences between herds with confirmed positive, unconfirmed positive, and unconfirmed inconclusive reactors, which highlights the difficulty in determining the true disease status of herds with unconfirmed tuberculin reactors. Overall, the risk of identifying reactors through routine surveillance decreased significantly over time, which may be partly attributable to changes in movement testing regulations and the volume of cattle imported from endemic regions.
Although the most likely source of bTB infections in Scotland was cattle previously imported from endemic regions, we found indirect evidence of transmission within Scottish cattle farms and cannot rule out the possibility of low level transmission between farms. Further investigation is needed to determine whether targeting herds with unconfirmed reactors and a history of importing cattle from high risk regions would benefit control efforts.
PMCID: PMC3826851  PMID: 24206865
Scotland; Cattle movements; Tuberculin test; Sensitivity; Specificity; Officially tuberculosis free
4.  The performance of approximations of farm contiguity compared to contiguity defined using detailed geographical information in two sample areas in Scotland: implications for foot-and-mouth disease modelling 
When modelling infectious diseases, accurately capturing the pattern of dissemination through space is key to providing optimal recommendations for control. Mathematical models of disease spread in livestock, such as for foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), have done this by incorporating a transmission kernel which describes the decay in transmission rate with increasing Euclidean distance from an infected premises (IP). However, this assumes a homogenous landscape, and is based on the distance between point locations of farms. Indeed, underlying the spatial pattern of spread are the contact networks involved in transmission. Accordingly, area-weighted tessellation around farm point locations has been used to approximate field-contiguity and simulate the effect of contiguous premises (CP) culling for FMD. Here, geographic data were used to determine contiguity based on distance between premises’ fields and presence of landscape features for two sample areas in Scotland. Sensitivity, positive predictive value, and the True Skill Statistic (TSS) were calculated to determine how point distance measures and area-weighted tessellation compared to the ‘gold standard’ of the map-based measures in identifying CPs. In addition, the mean degree and density of the different contact networks were calculated.
Utilising point distances <1 km and <5 km as a measure for contiguity resulted in poor discrimination between map-based CPs/non-CPs (TSS 0.279-0.344 and 0.385-0.400, respectively). Point distance <1 km missed a high proportion of map-based CPs; <5 km point distance picked up a high proportion of map-based non-CPs as CPs. Area-weighted tessellation performed best, with reasonable discrimination between map-based CPs/non-CPs (TSS 0.617-0.737) and comparable mean degree and density. Landscape features altered network properties considerably when taken into account.
The farming landscape is not homogeneous. Basing contiguity on geographic locations of field boundaries and including landscape features known to affect transmission into FMD models are likely to improve individual farm-level accuracy of spatial predictions in the event of future outbreaks. If a substantial proportion of FMD transmission events are by contiguous spread, and CPs should be assigned an elevated relative transmission rate, the shape of the kernel could be significantly altered since ability to discriminate between map-based CPs and non-CPs is different over different Euclidean distances.
PMCID: PMC4126065  PMID: 24099627
5.  Mortality in East African shorthorn zebu cattle under one year: predictors of infectious-disease mortality 
Infectious livestock diseases remain a major threat to attaining food security and are a source of economic and livelihood losses for people dependent on livestock for their livelihood. Knowledge of the vital infectious diseases that account for the majority of deaths is crucial in determining disease control strategies and in the allocation of limited funds available for disease control. Here we have estimated the mortality rates in zebu cattle raised in a smallholder mixed farming system during their first year of life, identified the periods of increased risk of death and the risk factors for calf mortality, and through analysis of post-mortem data, determined the aetiologies of calf mortality in this population. A longitudinal cohort study of 548 zebu cattle was conducted between 2007 and 2010. Each calf was followed during its first year of life or until lost from the study. Calves were randomly selected from 20 sub-locations and recruited within a week of birth from different farms over a 45 km radius area centered on Busia in the Western part of Kenya. The data comprised of 481.1 calf years of observation. Clinical examinations, sample collection and analysis were carried out at 5 week intervals, from birth until one year old. Cox proportional hazard models with frailty terms were used for the statistical analysis of risk factors. A standardized post-mortem examination was conducted on all animals that died during the study and appropriate samples collected.
The all-cause mortality rate was estimated at 16.1 (13.0-19.2; 95% CI) per 100 calf years at risk. The Cox models identified high infection intensity with Theileria spp., the most lethal of which causes East Coast Fever disease, infection with Trypanosome spp., and helminth infections as measured by Strongyle spp. eggs per gram of faeces as the three important infections statistically associated with infectious disease mortality in these calves. Analysis of post-mortem data identified East Coast Fever as the main cause of death accounting for 40% of all deaths, haemonchosis 12% and heartwater disease 7%.
The findings demonstrate the impact of endemic parasitic diseases in indigenous animals expected to be well adapted against disease pressures. Additionally, agreement between results of Cox models using data from simple diagnostic procedures and results from post-mortem analysis underline the potential use such diagnostic data to reduce calf mortality. The control strategies for the identified infectious diseases have been discussed.
PMCID: PMC3848692  PMID: 24010500
Mortality; Infectious-disease; Cattle
6.  Design and descriptive epidemiology of the Infectious Diseases of East African Livestock (IDEAL) project, a longitudinal calf cohort study in western Kenya 
There is a widely recognised lack of baseline epidemiological data on the dynamics and impacts of infectious cattle diseases in east Africa. The Infectious Diseases of East African Livestock (IDEAL) project is an epidemiological study of cattle health in western Kenya with the aim of providing baseline epidemiological data, investigating the impact of different infections on key responses such as growth, mortality and morbidity, the additive and/or multiplicative effects of co-infections, and the influence of management and genetic factors.
A longitudinal cohort study of newborn calves was conducted in western Kenya between 2007-2009. Calves were randomly selected from all those reported in a 2 stage clustered sampling strategy. Calves were recruited between 3 and 7 days old. A team of veterinarians and animal health assistants carried out 5-weekly, clinical and postmortem visits. Blood and tissue samples were collected in association with all visits and screened using a range of laboratory based diagnostic methods for over 100 different pathogens or infectious exposures.
The study followed the 548 calves over the first 51 weeks of life or until death and when they were reported clinically ill. The cohort experienced a high all cause mortality rate of 16% with at least 13% of these due to infectious diseases. Only 307 (6%) of routine visits were classified as clinical episodes, with a further 216 reported by farmers. 54% of calves reached one year without a reported clinical episode. Mortality was mainly to east coast fever, haemonchosis, and heartwater. Over 50 pathogens were detected in this population with exposure to a further 6 viruses and bacteria.
The IDEAL study has demonstrated that it is possible to mount population based longitudinal animal studies. The results quantify for the first time in an animal population the high diversity of pathogens a population may have to deal with and the levels of co-infections with key pathogens such as Theileria parva. This study highlights the need to develop new systems based approaches to study pathogens in their natural settings to understand the impacts of co-infections on clinical outcomes and to develop new evidence based interventions that are relevant.
PMCID: PMC3847666  PMID: 24000820
Cattle; Infectious disease; Kenya; Longitudinal study; Cohort; Epidemiology; Study design
7.  Geographic and topographic determinants of local FMD transmission applied to the 2001 UK FMD epidemic 
Models of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) transmission have assumed a homogeneous landscape across which Euclidean distance is a suitable measure of the spatial dependency of transmission. This paper investigated features of the landscape and their impact on transmission during the period of predominantly local spread which followed the implementation of the national movement ban during the 2001 UK FMD epidemic. In this study 113 farms diagnosed with FMD which had a known source of infection within 3 km (cases) were matched to 188 control farms which were either uninfected or infected at a later timepoint. Cases were matched to controls by Euclidean distance to the source of infection and farm size. Intervening geographical features and connectivity between the source of infection and case and controls were compared.
Road distance between holdings, access to holdings, presence of forest, elevation change between holdings and the presence of intervening roads had no impact on the risk of local FMD transmission (p > 0.2). However the presence of linear features in the form of rivers and railways acted as barriers to FMD transmission (odds ratio = 0.507, 95% CIs = 0.297,0.887, p = 0.018).
This paper demonstrated that although FMD spread can generally be modelled using Euclidean distance and numbers of animals on susceptible holdings, the presence of rivers and railways has an additional protective effect reducing the probability of transmission between holdings.
PMCID: PMC2573875  PMID: 18834510
8.  Potential for epidemic take-off from the primary outbreak farm via livestock movements 
We consider the potential for infection to spread in a farm population from the primary outbreak farm via livestock movements prior to disease detection. We analyse how this depends on the time of the year infection occurs, the species transmitting, the length of infectious period on the primary outbreak farm, location of the primary outbreak, and whether a livestock market becomes involved. We consider short infectious periods of 1 week, 2 weeks and 4 weeks, characteristic of acute contagious livestock diseases. The analysis is based on farms in Scotland from 1 January 2003 to 31 July 2007.
The proportion of primary outbreaks from which an acute contagious disease would spread via movement of livestock is generally low, but exhibits distinct annual cyclicity with peaks in May and August. The distance that livestock are moved varies similarly: at the time of the year when the potential for spread via movements is highest, the geographical spread via movements is largest. The seasonal patterns for cattle differ from those for sheep whilst there is no obvious seasonality for pigs. When spread via movements does occur, there is a high risk of infection reaching a livestock market; infection of markets can amplify disease spread. The proportion of primary outbreaks that would spread infection via livestock movements varies significantly between geographical regions.
In this paper we introduce a set-up for analysis of movement data that allows for a generalized assessment of the risk associated with infection spreading from a primary outbreak farm via livestock movements, applying this to Scotland, we assess how this risk depends upon the time of the year, species transmitting, location of the farm and other factors.
PMCID: PMC3264511  PMID: 22115121
livestock movement; seasonality; cyclicity; spread of infection; primary outbreak
9.  Modelling Marek's Disease Virus (MDV) infection: parameter estimates for mortality rate and infectiousness 
Marek's disease virus (MDV) is an economically important oncogenic herpesvirus of poultry. Since the 1960s, increasingly virulent strains have caused continued poultry industry production losses worldwide. To understand the mechanisms of this virulence evolution and to evaluate the epidemiological consequences of putative control strategies, it is imperative to understand how virulence is defined and how this correlates with host mortality and infectiousness during MDV infection. We present a mathematical approach to quantify key epidemiological parameters. Host lifespan, virus latent periods and host viral shedding rates were estimated for unvaccinated and vaccinated birds, infected with one of three MDV strains. The strains had previously been pathotyped to assign virulence scores according to pathogenicity of strains in hosts.
Our analyses show that strains of higher virulence have a higher viral shedding rate, and more rapidly kill hosts. Vaccination enhances host life expectancy but does not significantly reduce the shedding rate of the virus. While the primary latent period of the virus does not vary with challenge strain nor vaccine treatment of host, the time until the maximum viral shedding rate is increased with vaccination.
Our approach provides the tools necessary for a formal analysis of the evolution of virulence in MDV, and potentially simpler and cheaper approaches to comparing the virulence of MDV strains.
PMCID: PMC3226581  PMID: 22078942
10.  Topographic determinants of foot and mouth disease transmission in the UK 2001 epidemic 
A key challenge for modelling infectious disease dynamics is to understand the spatial spread of infection in real landscapes. This ideally requires a parallel record of spatial epidemic spread and a detailed map of susceptible host density along with relevant transport links and geographical features.
Here we analyse the most detailed such data to date arising from the UK 2001 foot and mouth epidemic. We show that Euclidean distance between infectious and susceptible premises is a better predictor of transmission risk than shortest and quickest routes via road, except where major geographical features intervene.
Thus, a simple spatial transmission kernel based on Euclidean distance suffices in most regions, probably reflecting the multiplicity of transmission routes during the epidemic.
PMCID: PMC1395309  PMID: 16412245

Results 1-10 (10)