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Keywords:

  • bovine tuberculosis;
  • disease resistance;
  • heterosis;
  • heterozygosity;
  • inbreeding;
  • wild boar

Abstract

Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is an important re-emerging zoonotic disease, causing major economic losses and constraining international trade of animals and their products. Despite eradication programmes, some countries continue to encounter outbreaks, mainly due to wildlife acting as primary hosts or reservoirs. While the genetic component of tuberculosis in humans and cattle is well documented, the role of genetic factors as modulators of bTB resistance remains unclear for natural populations. To address this issue, we investigated the relative contribution of host genetic variability to susceptibility to bTB infection and disease progression in wild boars from southern Spain. We found that genetic heterozygosity is an important predictor of bTB, not only modulating resistance to infection but also influencing containment of disease progression in infected individuals. Our results provide further evidence that host genetic variability plays a central role in natural populations. Testing each marker separately reveals evidence of both general and single-locus associative effects on bTB and several loci reveal high homology to regions of the genome with known immune function. Our results may prove to be crucial for understanding outbreaks of bTB in wildlife that could potentially affect domestic livestock and humans.