Serological and clinical surveillance studies to validate reported foot-and-mouth disease free status in Tsirang district of Bhutan.
Serological and clinical studies were conducted between March 2009 and August 2010 to validate the foot-and-mouth disease free status of Tsirang district of Bhutan as determined by the country's passive surveillance system. Randomised (first survey) and targeted (third survey) samplings, with subsequent follow-up samplings (second and fourth), were conducted on FMD-susceptible animals to detect the disease at a design prevalence of 25% and 20% at the individual animal-level and village-level, respectively. Sera from cattle, goats, pigs, and sheep were tested for the presence of non-structural protein (NSP) antibodies using two commercial (PrioCHECK ® FMDV NS and CHEKIT ®-FMD-3ABC-bo-ov) and one in-house NSP kit (c-ELISA, AAHL, Australia). The overall seropositivity (all species) at the animal-level was 3% (95% CI: 1.7, 4.8) and 3.5% (95% CI: 2.1, 5.4), for the randomised and targeted surveys, respectively. Except for one goat from the first survey, none of the small ruminants and pigs had NSP antibodies. The seropositives from the first and targeted surveys were distributed among 13 and 16 of 20 villages sampled, respectively. All repeat testing from the initial seropositive animals and their herd mates, for both the first and third surveys, were negative in the NSP tests 6-8 months later. Using the hypergeometric exact probability formula for two-stage analyses, the results enabled rejection of the null hypothesis and supported conclusion that the population was free from disease at the minimum expected prevalence of 20% at the 95.53% and 99.46% confidence levels, for the randomised and targeted surveys, respectively. Clinical surveillance also showed absence of disease or clinical signs suggestive of FMD. The few seropositives were likely to be false positives due to factors such as imperfect specificities of the tests and possible NSP-residues in the vaccines. The study has paved the way for initiation of zoning approaches for the progressive control of FMD in Bhutan.