Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 8th 2018 Contents 14 UWI TODAY -- SUNDAY 8 APRIL, 2018
To get a better understanding of the nature of Brucellosis, I
asked two lecturers from the School of Veterinary Medicine at
e UWI, to explain its nature and impact on cattle, particularly
the Bu alypso. Dr. Michael Diptee, a veterinarian in the area
of veterinary medicine and surgery, lectures in Large Animal
Surgery. He has a special interest in Brucellosis. Dr. Winthrop
Harewood is a Senior Lecturer in Food Animal Medicine and
is Head of the Clinical Veterinary Department. e Livestock
Advisor to the Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Marlon Knights also
shared his position on some of the questions.
What is Brucellosis?
DR. DIPTEE: It is an infectious disease caused by a gram-
negative bacteria that can persist in the environment
invariably depending on temperature, pH, and humidity. e
bacteria a ect multiple species and can spread from animals
to humans. Humans acquire brucellosis when they come in
contact with contaminated animals or animal products, most
commonly from the ingestion of raw milk or cheese.
What does it mean for bu alo
infected with Brucellosis?
DR. DIPTEE: Infected bu alo are prone to abortions,
low milk production and even infertility when infected.
It is caused by an intracellular bacteria and thus requires
prolonged treatment with clinically e ective antibiotics. As
such there is no cost-e ective treatment for infected livestock.
I understand it can be managed,
what does that entail?
DR. DIPTEE: When Brucellosis is detected, infected animals
are identi ed and later slaughtered at a Brucellosis-approved
abattoir (at the Sugarcane Feed Centre).
DR. KNIGHTS: What is the de nition of 'managed' and to
what end and under what conditions? My suggestion that the
herd at Mora Valley should be culled is an actual management
1. Your management strategy will vary depending on how
widespread the disease is or conversely how localized.
ankfully Brucellosis is localized and the best strategy
would be to ensure it does not spread even if that means
culling the herd.
2. Your management strategy depends on what you see as
the potential role or function of that herd. Remember
it is probably nearly 25 years since this herd has been
infected. Certainly if the function of the herd is a
source of genetic material then over the last 25 years we
certainly have not been using it for that purpose. e
management strategy of test and cull and return to the
same environment has not worked, and the population
has continued to dwindle while still remaining as a
potential source of infection for animals outside of Mora
3. Your management strategy for Brucellosis must consider
the existing level of overall management of the animals.
Even a er discovering the disease some 20-25 years ago
many basic practices was not put in place. Two of the
major de ciencies is the lack of controlled breeding and
animal identi cation. Additionally appropriate fencing is
still lacking. ese are signi cant undertakings and still
will not be su cient.
Source: A status report on the water bufalo (Bubalus bubalis Linnaeus, 1758) industry
in Trinidad. A. Mohammed, M. D.Diptee, A. Persad, R. Mohammed, N. Lambie and S.
4. Some will suggest vaccination. ere are risks involved
in with this, including the possibility of the vaccine
causing disease in humans if accidental injection
occurs. Moreover there is the issue of identifying
animals that were naturally infected from those who
were vaccinated. While the technology does exist
to do this, who will be the ones to guarantee that a
seropositive animal was actually due to vaccination
and will be willing to let that animal leave the farm?
Even the best vaccines are not 100% e ective and there
still exist questions as to if and when animals need to
be revaccinated to maintain protection. We need to
be careful that we do not take a localized problem and
make it a national issue.
5. en there is the question of what is the true demand
for our water bu alo genetics. Yes we did supply
genetics in the past but in terms of development of the
animals, whether for growth or milk production, many
countries have much more developed animals. It is my
belief that the herd at ALS can adequately be managed
to meet the need for breeding stock locally.
Do we have the capacity
to treat/manage it locally?
DR. DIPTEE: e simple answer to this question is no. We
lack the political commitment to deal with this problem.
Brucellosis was identi ed in water bu alo in 1998 and up to
today (20 years later) the problem exists. Depopulation was
not considered possible due to economic factors and the loss
of genetic variability.
DR. HAREWOOD: I am not aware about any e ective
treatment options for Bu alypso with Brucellosis. ere
are options to manage Bu alypso herds which have been
exposed to Brucellosis. e option one uses will depend
upon what one wishes, this is usually related to the purpose
for which the animals are kept. One management option for
an infected herd or animal(s) at risk of getting infected is a
vaccination. is requires a vaccination protocol, and use
of a vaccine which increases the immunity of the animal(s)
to withstand the infection by the causative bacteria, with
DR. KNIGHTS: Based on what has occurred in the past
and what I identi ed above, I would say no.
Even if a vaccine is available and
administered, would that be relevant
to the herd at Mora Valley?
DR. DIPTEE: No! e current vaccines used on cattle are
not e ective in preventing Brucellosis in water bu alo. Test
and slaughter is the only means available to manage the
disease in T&T. It is also impossible to test the entire herd of
bu alo at Mora Valley because some wild bu alo live in the
forested area there.
DR. KNIGHTS: Based on the above no. I do not believe the
Government should be in the business of beef production,
which is essentially the only purpose Mora Valley serves at
this time. To clean that herd up so that it can be used as a
source of breeding animals will be extremely di cult. In any
event the management at that site will eventually involve
depopulating even if potentially positive animals are moved
to another site. Moving animals from that site puts cattle
and bu alo production throughout Trinidad at risk
(Dr Adesh Ramsubhag, a microbiologist at e UWI,
has been exploring the e cacy of the vaccines. "We need
to seriously explore alternative strategies for managing
Brucellosis in local herds. It appears that imported vaccines
currently used are not working. is may be due to the
occurrence of unique strains of the disease-causing agent in
this region. If we can con rm this by studying the disease in
more detail, we may be able to help with developing more
suitable and e ective vaccines for protecting the animals in
Trinidad and Tobago," he said.)
How safe would it be for humans to consume
the meat and milk of infected cattle, even if
they are being treated?
DR. DIPTEE: When milk is pasteurized and meat is
cooked, it is made safe by heating it just long enough to kill
the Brucellosis disease-causing germs. Infected Bu alypso
are slaughtered. e reproductive tract, mammary glands
and lymph nodes are removed to ensure that the meat is safe
for human consumption.
DR. HAREWOOD: It really depends upon how you de ne
safe. Also on what is done with the meat and milk prior
to human consumption. I suspect it also depends upon
the state of one's immune system. If you work with the
"one-size- ts-all" concept, you would most likely want to
advocate avoiding Brucella-infected food, milk and milk
products, especially when the alternative is readily available.
DR. KNIGHTS: e Same procedure must be employed; all
animals must be slaughtered at the Sugarcane Feed Centre.
Bu alypso's Last Stand SPECIAL REPORT BY VANEISA BAKSH
e Case for Culling
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