Herd-level bovine tuberculosis risk factors: assessing the role of low-level badger population disturbance

David M. Wright, Neil Reid, W. Ian Montgomery, Adrian R. Allen, Robin A. Skuce, Rowland R. Kao

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Abstract

Bovine TB (bTB) is endemic in Irish cattle and has eluded eradication despite considerable expenditure, amid debate over the relative roles of badgers and cattle in disease transmission. Using a comprehensive dataset from Northern Ireland (>10,000 km2; 29,513 cattle herds), we investigated interactions between host populations in one of the first large-scale risk factor analyses for new herd breakdowns to combine data on both species. Cattle risk factors (movements, international imports, bTB history, neighbours with bTB) were more strongly associated with herd risk than area-level measures of badger social group density, habitat suitability or persecution (sett disturbance). Highest risks were in areas of high badger social group density and high rates of persecution, potentially representing both responsive persecution of badgers in high cattle risk areas and effects of persecution on cattle bTB risk through badger social group disruption. Average badger persecution was associated with reduced cattle bTB risk (compared with high persecution areas), so persecution may contribute towards sustaining bTB hotspots; findings with important implications for existing and planned disease control programmes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number13062
Number of pages11
JournalScientific Reports
Volume5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 17 Aug 2015

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