June 1, 2020

CSF Encourages CDC, APHIS to Allow Brucellosis Research

On May 18, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation submitted comments to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) in support of removing Brucella abortus (Brucellosis) from their respective select agent lists.

Brucellosis is caused by the Brucella abortis bacterium, resulting in the abortion of fetuses in a variety of mammals, including elk, deer, bison, and cattle. Transmission of Brucellosis occurs when a healthy animal comes in contact with the bacterium from infected aborted fetuses, fetal fluids, fetal membrane, or vaginal discharge. In addition to reduced reproductive success of critical big game species, there are serious concerns surrounding the health of free-range cattle operations interacting with Brucellosis infected wild elk populations, and the potential economic impact on the cattle industry. Brucellosis is also transmissible to people, and poses a potential threat to public health.

By being on the select agents list for both the CDC and APHIS, there are significant restrictions and limitations on the ability to conduct important brucellosis research such as requiring activities to be completed in environmentally controlled and secure facilities. This limitation has made it prohibitively expensive to achieve appropriate sample sizes, and eliminates the possibility of assessing ecological factors that significantly impact disease transmission of Brucellosis.

Expansion of surveillance methodology, wildlife vaccination trials, and disease transmission tests through field research, are needed to further our understanding of the disease and prevent its spread. Without additional tools, Brucellosis will continue to expand, resulting in additional costs to wildlife, producers, and disease control programs.

Developing a better understanding of the wildlife-livestock-human interface of Brucellosis is critical in developing effective management strategies. Such an understanding is extremely unlikely, given the significant research limitations due to the classification of Brucellosis as a select agent disease by the CDC and APHIS.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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