The BVA is to “carefully consider” a study that casts doubt about the extent to which badgers cause bTB in cattle.

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) used a mathematical model based on the movements of more than a million cattle and 50,000 badgers to reach their conclusions.

badger
A study from the Queen Mary University of London has cast doubt about the extent to which badgers cause bTB in cattle. Image © kyslynskyy / fotolia.

They were able to quantify the relationship between the animals and used a big data approach to show the route of infection for cattle is from other cattle, rather than another species.

Reciprocally, badgers are mainly infected by other infected badgers. As such, the big data analysis shows a weak link between badgers and cattle for TB transmission.

As the largest simulation to date of the numbers of cattle and badgers infected with TB, the study casts serious doubts about the extent to which badgers cause bTB in cattle, the researchers said.

Research welcomed

The BVA supports the policy of culling trapped badgers, though it does not endorse the killing of free ranging badgers.

BVA junior vice-president John Fishwick said: “We welcome new research and will take the time to carefully consider this study and its findings alongside other evidence. Any findings from this or other studies that may change our policies are subject to our usual processes and any subsequent change in our policies is reported in due course.”

Modelling exercise

The modelling exercise employed followed more than a million cattle and 50,000 badgers over different scenarios to understand how the movement of one species affects the transmission of bTB in the other.

Aristides Moustakas, from QMUL’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences and who led the study, said: “If badgers are causing TB in cattle, we would see a similar pattern of infection in both species; however, our analysis reveals this isn’t the case and could have implications for a strategy to vaccinate badgers as an efficient control strategy, if policymakers were to pursue this option.”

  • Read the full story in the 17 October issue of Veterinary Times.
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