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Development of integrated surveillance systems for the management of tuberculosis in New Zealand wildlife

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posted on 2023-05-03, 09:48 authored by D. P. Anderson, D.S.L. Ramsey, Geoff DeLisle, M. Bosson, M.L. Cross, G. Nugent
Disease surveillance for the management of bovine tuberculosis (TB) in New Zealand has focussed, to a large extent, on the development of tools specific for monitoring Mycobacterium bovis infection in wildlife. Diagnostic techniques have been modified progressively over 30 years of surveillance of TB in wildlife, from initial characterisation of gross TB lesions in a variety of wildlife, through development of sensitive culture techniques to identify viable mycobacteria, to molecular identification of individual M. bovis strains. Of key importance in disease surveillance has been the elucidation of the roles that different wildlife species play in the transmission of infection, specifically defining brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) as true maintenance hosts compared to those that are predominantly spillover hosts, but which may serve as useful sentinel species to indicate TB persistence. Epidemiological modelling has played a major role in TB surveillance, initially providing the theoretical support for large-scale possum population control and setting targets at which control effort should be deployed to ensure disease eradication. As TB prevalence in livestock and wildlife declined throughout the 2000s, more varied field tools were developed to gather surveillance data from the diminishing possum populations, and to provide information on changing TB prevalence. Accordingly, ever more precise (but disparate) surveillance information began to be integrated into multi-faceted decision-assist models to support TB management decisions, particularly to provide informed parameters at which control effort could be halted, culminating in the Proof of Freedom modelling framework that now allows an area to be declared TB-free within chosen confidence limits. As New Zealand moves from large-scale TB control to regional eradication of disease in the coming years, further integrative models will need to be developed to support management decisions, based on combined field data of possum and TB prevalence, sentinel information, risk assessment in relation to financial benefits, and changing political and environmental needs.


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© 2015 The Author(s). Published by Taylor & Francis. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.


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Taylor & Francis

Journal title

New Zealand Veterinary Journal




Anderson, D. P., Ramsey, D. S. L., de Lisle, G. W., Bosson, M., Cross, M. L., & Nugent, G. (2014). Development of integrated surveillance systems for the management of tuberculosis in New Zealand wildlife. New Zealand Veterinary Journal, 63(sup1), 89-97. doi: 10.1080/00480169.2014.963830

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