Study in Progress

Revisiting Brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone Area

About The Study

Brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA) is a disease caused by the bacteria Brucella abortus. Most likely introduced to North American by European cattle and then transmitted to wildlife, brucellosis was first detected in Yellowstone National Park bison in 1917 and has been present ever since. Brucellosis can be transmitted from one species to another, and concern has been expressed for many years over the potential for wildlife in the Greater Yellowstone Area to spread brucellosis to cattle that graze on land in or adjacent to it and for cattle then to transmit the disease to other species, including humans. The hallmark of the disease in cattle, bison, and elk is abortion or birth of nonviable calves.

A 1998 report from the National Research Council report examined whether brucellosis transmission by bison or elk (Cervus elaphus) is a threat to domestic livestock and whether vaccination or other management strategies might prove useful in controlling potential transmission.


Revisiting Brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone Area - Committee Meeting #1 - 07/01/15
Revisiting Brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone Area - Field Trip to Yellowstone - 09/14/15
Revisiting Brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone Area - Committee Meeting #2 - 09/15/15
Revisiting Brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone Area - Committee Meeting #3 - 11/10/15
Report Release Webinar: Revisiting Brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone Area - 05/31/17

Statement of Task

In this update of Brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone Area (NRC, 1998) an NRC-appointed committee will comprehensively review and evaluate the available scientific literature and other information on the prevalence and spread of Brucella abortus in the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA) in wild and domestic animals and examine the feasibility, time-frame, and cost-effectiveness of options to contain or suppress brucellosis across the region. The study will examine factors associated with the increased occurrence of brucellosis transmission from wildlife to livestock and the recent expansion of brucellosis in non-feedground elk, including whether evidence suggests that brucellosis is self-sustaining in elk or if reinfection through emigration from feeding grounds is occurring. The study also will explore the role of feeding grounds, predators, population size and other factors in facilitating brucellosis infection. The study committee will examine disease management activities and vaccination strategies being undertaken or considered at the state, regional, and federal level, and evaluate the biological, animal-health, and public-health effects of those activities. The committee also will examine the current state of brucellosis vaccines, vaccine delivery systems, and vaccines under development for bison, cattle, and elk, as well as the effectiveness of currently available vaccination protocols. In the course of its review, the committee will explore the likelihood of developing more effective vaccines, delivery systems, and diagnostic protocols for cattle, bison and elk.

Throughout the study, the committee will meet with wildlife managers, animal health officials, land managers, native peoples, and other stakeholders , including the members of the public, to understand the implications of brucellosis control efforts on other goals and activities in the region and nationally. The committee will examine the societal and economic costs and benefits of implementing various measures to reduce or eliminate the risk of brucellosis transmission to cattle and within wildlife relative to the costs and benefits of allowing the persistence of brucellosis in the GYA. In a consensus report, the committee will summarize the findings and conclusions of its analysis and based on the scientific evidence, describe the likely effectiveness and trade-offs of options that could be used to address brucellosis in the GYA.

In addition, the report will describe and prioritize further research needed to reduce uncertainties and advance the knowledge base on brucellosis vaccines, vaccine delivery mechanisms, and diagnostics.

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