Local cattle and badger populations affect the risk of confirmed tuberculosis in British cattle herds.
Vial F., Johnston WT., Donnelly CA.
The control of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) remains a priority on the public health agenda in Great Britain, after launching in 1998 the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) to evaluate the effectiveness of badger (Meles meles) culling as a control strategy. Our study complements previous analyses of the RBCT data (focusing on treatment effects) by presenting analyses of herd-level risks factors associated with the probability of a confirmed bTB breakdown in herds within each treatment: repeated widespread proactive culling, localized reactive culling and no culling (survey-only).New cases of bTB breakdowns were monitored inside the RBCT areas from the end of the first proactive badger cull to one year after the last proactive cull. The risk of a herd bTB breakdown was modeled using logistic regression and proportional hazard models adjusting for local farm-level risk factors. Inside survey-only and reactive areas, increased numbers of active badger setts and cattle herds within 1500 m of a farm were associated with an increased bTB risk. Inside proactive areas, the number of M. bovis positive badgers initially culled within 1500 m of a farm was the strongest predictor of the risk of a confirmed bTB breakdown.The use of herd-based models provide insights into how local cattle and badger populations affect the bTB breakdown risks of individual cattle herds in the absence of and in the presence of badger culling. These measures of local bTB risks could be integrated into a risk-based herd testing programme to improve the targeting of interventions aimed at reducing the risks of bTB transmission.