MAP in the Netherlands Flag

Government pledges to eradicate Johne's Disease
from herds of food animals.

Johne's Disease is a particular problem in the Netherlands, due to a number of factors. The population density of the Netherlands is one of the highest in Europe, leading to extremely small farm holdings, which must be intensely farmed to make them economic. The country is also one of the flattest in Europe, resulting in an extensive network of waterways and canals which permits water transit across the entire country. This water network provides the perfect conduit for Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis to spread, with a steady stream of MAP bacteria being delivered into the water through fecal runoff from infected farms.

The Netherlands government pledged in 1998 to eradicate Johne's Disease from herds of food animals, for the following reasons.

  • Concern for the public health. The Netherlands is considered one of Europe's most enlightened countries in terms of environmental awareness and policy. Policy decisions in the Netherlands tend in greater part to reflect the needs of the community as a whole, rather than that of individual interest groups. By acting to minimize the exposure of humans to MAP, the risk that MAP may be responsible for causing Crohn's disease is minimized.

  • Mounting economic losses. Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis appears to be extremely widespread in the Netherlands, with anecdotal reports appearing that a majority of herds in some areas may be affected. Although eradication of Johne's Disease is extremely expensive, experience to date in a trial program involving 300 herds has shown that eradication programs are financially viable, because of the enormous economic losses that are prevented.

  • Concern for future trade implications. Despite its comparatively miniscule size, the Netherlands is one of the world's largest agricultural exporters, specializing in non-space intensive, high value products such as seeds and flowers. The international market for dairy products from the Netherlands is large and growing. Dutch dairy exporters recognize the potential for damaging trade barriers that could be erected to prevent international trade in MAP infected foods.

Live MAP vaccine banned in the Netherlands.

In 1999, there are two main types of vaccine available against MAP infection, a live vaccine and a killed vaccine. The live vaccine consists of MAP bacteria that have been weakened, but that are still alive, and thus are capable of establishing an infection. Although these vaccines have limited ability to prevent Johne's Disease in animals, they are still in use in many countries, because no better technology is available.

Because of the risk of MAP transmission to humans, particularly animal health workers, the use of the live MAP vaccine is banned in the Netherlands. After cases where veterinarians had to have skin and muscle tissue surgically removed from their bodies after accidentally inoculating themselves with the live MAP vaccine, the use of this vaccine was considered to present an unnecessarily high risk to human health.

(For additional information about Johne's disease and controlling MAP in the environment, visit PARA's website's section entitled "MAP in the Environment:  The Paratuberculosis Problem.")

Contact PARA:
Paratuberculosis Awareness & Research Association, 1999-2003.