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Human and livestock diseases can be difficult to control where infection persists in wildlife populations. For three decades, European badgers (Meles meles) have been culled by the British government in a series of attempts to limit the spread of Mycobacterium bovis, the causative agent of bovine tuberculosis (TB), to cattle. Despite these efforts, the incidence of TB in cattle has risen consistently, re-emerging as a primary concern for Britain's cattle industry. Recently, badger culling has attracted controversy because experimental studies have reached contrasting conclusions (albeit using different protocols), with culled areas showing either markedly reduced or increased incidence of TB in cattle. This has confused attempts to develop a science-based management policy. Here we use data from a large-scale, randomized field experiment to help resolve these apparent differences. We show that, as carried out in this experiment, culling reduces cattle TB incidence in the areas that are culled, but increases incidence in adjoining areas. These findings are biologically consistent with previous studies but will present challenges for policy development.

Original publication

DOI

10.1038/nature04454

Type

Journal article

Journal

Nature

Publication Date

02/2006

Volume

439

Pages

843 - 846

Addresses

Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London, St. Mary's Campus, Norfolk Place, London W2 1PG, UK. c.donnelly@imperial.ac.uk

Keywords

Animals, Animals, Wild, Cattle, Mustelidae, Mycobacterium bovis, Tuberculosis, Bovine, Zoonoses, Incidence, Random Allocation, Communicable Disease Control, Female, United Kingdom