The prevalence, distribution and severity of detectable pathological lesions in badgers naturally infected with Mycobacterium bovis.
Jenkins HE., Morrison WI., Cox DR., Donnelly CA., Johnston WT., Bourne FJ., Clifton-Hadley RS., Gettinby G., McInerney JP., Watkins GH., Woodroffe R.
The Randomized Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) began in 1998 to determine the impact of badger culling in controlling bovine tuberculosis in cattle. A total of 1166 badgers (14% of total) proactively culled during the RBCT were found to be tuberculous, offering a unique opportunity to study the pathology caused by Mycobacterium bovis in a large sample of badgers. Of these, 39% of adults (approximately 6% of all adults culled) had visible lesions (detectable at necropsy) of bovine tuberculosis; cubs had a lower prevalence of infection (9%) but a higher percentage of tuberculous cubs (55.5%) had visible lesions. Only approximately 1% of adult badgers had extensive, severe pathology. Tuberculous badgers with recorded bite wounds (approximately 5%) had a higher prevalence of visible lesions and a different distribution of lesions, suggesting transmission via bite wounds. However, the predominance of lesions in the respiratory tract indicates that most transmission occurs by the respiratory route.