Persistence of Mycobacterium bovis Bacillus Calmette-Guérin in White-Tailed Deer (Odocoileus Virginianus) after Oral or Parenteral Vaccination


M. V. Palmer. National Animal Disease Center, 1920 Dayton Avenue, Ames, IA 50010, USA. Tel.: +1 515 337 7474; Fax: +1 515 337 7458; E-mail:


Mycobacterium bovis is the cause of tuberculosis in cattle and a serious zoonotic pathogen, most commonly contracted through consumption of unpasteurized dairy products. To control this zoonosis, many countries have developed bovine tuberculosis eradication programmes. Although relatively successful, efforts are hindered in many regions by spillover from wildlife reservoirs of M. bovis to cattle. Such is the case in the United States where spillover of M. bovis from free-ranging white-tailed deer to cattle occurs. One approach to control such inter-species transmission is vaccination of wildlife. The live, attenuated human vaccine M. bovis Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) has been shown to reduce disease severity in white-tailed deer; however, vaccine persistence within tissues has also been noted. Consumption of venison containing BCG by hunters may present a public health concern as BCG exposure, although unlikely to cause disease, could cause false positive tuberculin skin test results. To examine BCG persistence further, 42 white-tailed deer were vaccinated orally or subcutaneously (SC) with BCG Danish. Three deer from each group were killed and examined at periods ranging from 2 weeks to 11 months after vaccination. BCG was recovered from orally vaccinated deer as late as 3 months after vaccination, while BCG persisted in SC vaccinated deer for as long as 9 months. At no time was BCG isolated from meat; however, prolonged persistence was seen in lymphoid organs. Although vaccine persistence was noted, especially in SC vaccinated deer, the distribution of culture-positive tissues makes human exposure through consumption unlikely.