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Over the last couple of decades, the UK experienced a substantial increase in the incidence and geographical spread of bovine tuberculosis (TB), in particular since the epidemic of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in 2001. The initiation of the Randomized Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) in 1998 in south-west England provided an opportunity for an in-depth collection of questionnaire data (covering farming practices, herd management and husbandry, trading and wildlife activity) from herds having experienced a TB breakdown between 1998 and early 2006 and randomly selected control herds, both within and outside the RBCT (the so-called TB99 and CCS2005 case-control studies). The data collated were split into four separate and comparable substudies related to either the pre-FMD or post-FMD period, which are brought together and discussed here for the first time. The findings suggest that the risk factors associated with TB breakdowns may have changed. Higher Mycobacterium bovis prevalence in badgers following the FMD epidemic may have contributed to the identification of the presence of badgers on a farm as a prominent TB risk factor only post-FMD. The strong emergence of contact/trading TB risk factors post-FMD suggests that the purchasing and movement of cattle, which took place to restock FMD-affected areas after 2001, may have exacerbated the TB problem. Post-FMD analyses also highlighted the potential impact of environmental factors on TB risk. Although no unique and universal solution exists to reduce the transmission of TB to and among British cattle, there is an evidence to suggest that applying the broad principles of biosecurity on farms reduces the risk of infection. However, with trading remaining as an important route of local and long-distance TB transmission, improvements in the detection of infected animals during pre- and post-movement testing should further reduce the geographical spread of the disease.

Original publication




Journal article


Transboundary and emerging diseases

Publication Date





505 - 515


Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, MRC Centre for Outbreak Analysis and Modelling, School of Public Health, Imperial College London, London, UK.


Animals, Animals, Wild, Cattle, Mustelidae, Mycobacterium bovis, Tuberculosis, Bovine, Foot-and-Mouth Disease, Incidence, Prevalence, Risk Factors, Case-Control Studies, Disease Outbreaks, England