Testing roadkill badgers for bovine TB

Mar 06, 2014
Testing roadkill badgers for bovine TB
The study hopes to establish presence or absence of the disease, geographic distribution and genotypes which could help to form larger studies and inform TB control measures.

(Phys.org) —Scientists at the University of Liverpool, in collaboration with farming groups and wildlife charities, are investigating the presence of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in Cheshire wildlife by testing badgers that have been involved in road collisions.

A team based at the University's Leahurst veterinary campus will receive for analysis in a scheme that has been backed by the local National Farmers Union (NFU), regional conservation charity, the Cheshire Wildlife Trust, and government veterinary service, The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA).

Year-on-year rise

Although it is widely accepted that bTB can be transmitted between badgers and cattle, the extent to which badgers play a role in the spread of the disease and where it is appears within Cheshire's badger population still remains largely unknown.

The study comes as the government assesses a recent badger culling trial in south west England, whilst in Cheshire, wildlife charities are expanding badger vaccination trials in some parts of the region.

Cheshire has experienced a year-on-year rise of bTB cases in livestock herds, and while the disease has established a strong presence in the south of the county, the region as a whole is considered to be within the 'edge area' of bTB progression northwards.

It's thought that if tackled effectively, reducing the presence of bTB along the northern edge of the spread of the disease could help to limit its progress northward.

The study hopes to establish presence or absence of the disease, geographic distribution and genotypes which could help to form larger studies and inform TB control measures.

Malcolm Bennett, Professor of epidemiology at the University's Institute of Infection and Global Health, said: "Bovine TB is a serious disease and how control it is both a complex and controversial issue. Any solution should be based on evidence, including some understanding on whether or not, and if so where, TB is present in cattle and badgers.

"Through testing, we already know where TB is in cattle in Cheshire, and this survey aims to give us a better idea of where it is in badgers in order to get some evidence that can be used in rational debate."

Richard Gardner, leading Cheshire Wildlife Trust's badger vaccination scheme added: "We know that badgers aren't solely responsible for the spread of TB in cattle, so any research that allows us to establish the local level of the role they do play, can help us direct how we approach tackling the problem here in the north west. This is especially useful while they remain at the heart of the government's current strategy for tackling bTB.

Region free of TB

"Our overall aim, like many of the landowners we work with, is to have a region that is free of TB and with healthy badgers, and any research that helps us to reach that goal is a step in the right direction."

There were 143 new cases of bTB across Cheshire in 2013, which led to the destruction of 829 animals. In the UK as a whole, 27,474 cattle were slaughtered due to bovine TB during January to October 2013.

Gonzalo Sanchez-Cabezudo, Regional Veterinary Lead with the AHVLA, said: "It is key to use all available tools to understand how the disease is spreading. This study is an initiative to explore how we can hopefully reduce the number of TB breakdowns by better understanding the role of wildlife in the spread of the disease in Cheshire."

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Kev_C
not rated yet Mar 06, 2014
Beware of placing too much faith in the results from roadkills. Badgers who are sick or infirm as a result of the disease will be more prone to go for road killed animals due to their reduced ability to hunt live game. Additionally the presumption is being made that badgers do infect cattle yet every study done has never come up with a concise and verifiable means for this exchange to take place. Short of sneezing directly into the nasal passages of the cattle (highly unlikely) there would be no other way to transmit the disease. One study had an infected badger confined within the same confined area as disease free cattle for a considerable length of time and the cattle remained disease free. How can that be?
I still firmly believe it is down to basic animal husbandry and transport and accomodation issues where the cattle are stressed, confined and associated with infected cattle that have not been picked up by the test. Which incidentally is not as reliable as we are told it is.
Kev_C
5 / 5 (1) Mar 06, 2014
One other factor that seems to escape the badger cull brigade. In one county on the South coast the badger population is tb free yet the rates of infection within the cattle population is on the increase. I wonder why?

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