Localized reactive badger culling increases risk of bovine tuberculosis in nearby cattle herds

Flavie Vial, Christl A. Donnelly

Abstract

Human and livestock diseases can be difficult to control where infection persists in wildlife populations. Control of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in British cattle is complicated by the maintenance of Mycobacterium bovis (the causative agent of bTB) in badgers, acting as reservoirs of infection. Although over 20 000 badgers were culled to control bTB between 1975 and 1997, the incidence of bTB in cattle has substantially increased in parts of Great Britain in recent decades. Our case-control study, involving 1208 cattle herds, provides further evidence of the detrimental effect of localized reactive badger culling in response to the disclosure of a confirmed bTB herd breakdown in cattle. The presence of any reactive badger culling activity and increased numbers of badgers culled in the vicinity of a herd were associated with significantly increased bTB risk, even after adjusting for other important local risk factors. Such findings may partly explain why some earlier localized approaches to bTB control were ineffective.

  • Received May 31, 2011.
  • Accepted June 20, 2011.
View Full Text