Risk Factors Associated with Bovine Cysticercosis

Abstract: Current EU regulation requires that every bovine carcass is examined for bovine cysticercosis (BC) at meat inspection. This is costly and might be superfluous at low BC prevalence. However, from a consumer view-point it may be important to identify and manage infected carcasses to avoid human infection. If relevant data could be effectively used to classify animals with respect to their risk of being infected, then the current meat inspection could be replaced by a more cost-effective system targeting high-risk animals. This study aimed to (1) describe the distribution of BC cases in the Danish cattle population, (2) estimate the animal level prevalence (3) provide descriptive statistics of potential risk factors for BC, and (4) determine attributable risks and fractions of selected risk factors potentially useful for a future risk-based meat inspection system. In total, 348 cases of BC were recorded among all cattle slaughtered (n =4,090,661) in Denmark between 2004 and 2011. The true animal level prevalence of BC was estimated to be 0.06%. The herd of origin of the cases were defined as the herd in which the animals spent most of their lifetimes. The detected cases were found to originate from 328 herds, with a maximum of two cases per herd indicating sporadic occurrence. Even though organic farming was associated with a higher risk (RR=1.9 in univariable analysis) of BC-positive animals being detected at slaughter, the population attributable fraction showed that only 5% of the animals with BC could be attributed to organic farming practices at the level of organic farming practiced in Denmark in the study period. Thus, organic farming status was not a suitable risk factor to use to target future risk-based meat inspection. However, 54% of the animals with BC in the cattle population were attributed to female gender. Increasing age at slaughter was also associated with high risk of BC. There may be overlaps between these effects in animals with multiple risk factors. Other underlying factors such as grazing patterns might explain the risk factors and attribution results found in this study. However, grazing practices are currently not recorded in the Danish cattle database. Therefore, animal level risk factors such as age and gender together with other risk factors such as grazing practices might be included as food chain information, required to be provided by the farmer prior to slaughter. The challenges and opportunities of this approach should be investigated further.

Reference: Calvo-Artavia, F. F., et al.. (2013). Occurrence and factors associated with bovine cysticercosis recorded in cattle at meat inspection in Denmark in 2004–2011. Preventive Veterinary Medicine 110(2): 177-182. Available online at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.prevetmed.2012.11.017