Scientists are carrying out a survey looking for evidence of TB in badgers killed on the roads.

Image: avs_lt / Fotolia.
Image: avs_lt / Fotolia.

The teams from the Universities of Nottingham, Surrey and Liverpool are trying to find out whether badgers living in counties around the edge of the expanding TB epidemic in cattle are infected.

The Surrey team is focusing on the southern counties, while The University of Nottingham team, with colleagues at Liverpool, is covering Cheshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Warwickshire and Northamptonshire.

Distribution of TB

The Defra-funded survey aims to shed light on the prevalence and geographic distribution of TB in badgers in “edge counties” in England.

A network of farmers wildlife groups and other stakeholder organisations is being established to collect badger carcases for examination at the collaborating universities, using special kits and protocols to ensure the safety of those doing the collecting and the carcases are suitable for study.

The survey is based on a feasibility study of road-killed badgers in and around Cheshire in 2014 where 20% of the badgers were found to be infected with TB, although only 10% had developed signs of the disease.

Badger role not clear

Leading the study at the University of Nottingham, Malcolm Bennett, from its School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, said: “Using road-killed badgers is a valuable way of studying disease and conservation issues in wildlife that makes use of an otherwise wasted resource.

“The prevalence and geographic distribution of TB in badgers on the edge of the cattle epidemic is unknown, yet of obvious importance to future TB control policy.

“While there is a wealth of evidence to inform cattle-based control measures, the role, if any, of badgers in the spread of bTB in the edge counties is not yet clear, so we are keen to address this.”

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