Tuberculosis in badgers where the bovine tuberculosis epidemic is expanding in cattle in England.
Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is an important animal health and economic problem for the cattle industry and a potential zoonotic threat. Wild badgers (Meles meles) play a role on its epidemiology in some areas of high prevalence in cattle, particularly in the UK and Republic of Ireland and increasingly in parts of mainland Europe. However, little is known about the involvement of badgers in areas on the spatial edge of the cattle epidemic, where increasing prevalence in cattle is seen. Here we report the findings of a study of found-dead (mainly road-killed) badgers in six counties on the edge of the English epidemic of bTB in cattle. The overall prevalence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTC) infection detected in the study area was 51/610 (8.3%, 95% CI 6.4-11%) with the county-level prevalence ranging from 15 to 4-5%. The MTC spoligotypes of recovered from badgers and cattle varied: in the northern part of the study area spoligotype SB0129 predominated in both cattle and badgers, but elsewhere there was a much wider range of spoligotypes found in badgers than in cattle, in which infection was mostly with the regional cattle spoligotype. The low prevalence of MTC in badgers in much of the study area, and, relative to in cattle, the lower density of sampling, make firm conclusions difficult to draw. However, with the exception of Cheshire (north-west of the study area), little evidence was found to link the expansion of the bTB epidemic in cattle in England to widespread badger infection.
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, UK Government (SE3054 / OJEU 28406)