Seroprevalence of anti‐Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis antibodies in female sheep in Tunisia
Paratuberculosis (Ptb) is a widespread chronic infection caused by Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (Map) that affects both domestic and wild ruminants. Most of the studies focused on cattle while, the prevalence of Ptb in sheep in different regions of the world is not well investigated. This study aimed to address this gap of knowledge by screening adult female sheep for paratuberculosis antibodies in different geographical regions of Tunisia. A total number of 338 female sheep from 15 small to middle‐sized, extensively managed sheep farms in six regions across Tunisia were sampled. Animals were clinically examined before blood sampling. Sera were tested for the presence of anti‐Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis antibodies using a commercial ELISA kit. Six farms out of 15 comprised at least one seropositive animal and 11 female sheep out of 338 tested animals (3.25%; 95% CI = [1.83–5.73]) were seropositive to M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis. The seroprevalence was significantly lower in 5‐year‐old females (p = .04) and animals that do not graze (p = .02). Due to its huge economic and social impacts, paratuberculosis represents a health problem in Tunisia and several other countries Further investigations are needed to rank sheep Ptb in Tunisia among other diseases and to assess the main risk factors using a larger nation‐wide survey.