story to find out more.
A new DNA fingerprinting technique called
HOOF-Prints can identify strains of Brucella bacteria. Brucellosis
induces abortions in many animals including elk (shown here), sheep, goats,
cattle, pigs and bison. Click the image for more information about
HOOF-Prints Help Find Where Outbreaks Begin
Pons January 20, 2006
Locating potential sources of brucellosis outbreaks is easier now,
thanks to a new DNA fingerprinting technique developed by scientists with the
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and
the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).
Finding the source of these outbreaks helps with identification and
isolation of infected animals, and with telling whether the outbreaks started
in wildlife, according to microbiologists
Bricker at ARS'
Animal Disease Center and Darla Ewalt of APHIS'
National Veterinary Services
Laboratories, both in Ames, Iowa.
The new techniquecalled "HOOF-Prints," for Hypervariable
Octameric Oligonucleotide Fingerprintsallows scientists to identify
strains of brucellosis through differences in their DNA sequences, and to
separate these strains into subtypes.
Brucellosis is an extremely infectious disease caused by
Brucella bacteria that induce abortions in many animals, including
sheep, goats, cattle, pigs, elk and bison. Humans who come in contact with
Brucella can get undulant fever, which is marked by chronic flulike
Though almost eradicated from the United States, brucellosis can still
prove costly to livestock producers through testing and losses. Outbreaks may
cause states to lose brucellosis-free status, meaning their cattle must undergo
extensive testing before they can be shipped away.
The new method uses polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology, which
copies large amounts of DNA molecules from small amounts of source DNA.
According to Ewalt, the HOOF-Prints technique is intended to complement
existing PCR and bacteriological tests used to identify Brucella
HOOF-Prints was first applied in the field in 2002 when it was used to
trace a brucellosis outbreak in Fremont County, Idaho, cattle to local elk. It
could eventually be applied toward generating an international database of
Brucella fingerprints that would be used to control the disease,
according to Bricker.
about the research in the January 2006 issue of Agricultural Research
ARS and APHIS are part of the U.S.
Department of Agriculture. ARS is USDA's chief scientific research agency,
while APHIS protects and promotes the nation's agricultural health.