The implications of bite wounding for disease status in badgers Meles meles
Daines, Rosie Laura
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Aggressive interactions between individuals can pose a significant risk for disease transmission. Positive associations between bite wounding and disease status in the Eurasian badger Meles meles have led to the suggestion of bite wounding as an alternative route of Mycobacterium bovis (bovine TB) infection to aerosol infection of the respiratory system. Understanding the social behaviours behind transmission routes is important for the effective management of infection. This study investigated the incidence of bite wounding in a naturally infected badger population with regard to (1) the evidence for bite wounding as a route of bovine TB transmission between badgers, and (2) the social behaviour of infected and uninfected animals. The results were consistent with bite wounding being a true route of transmission: M. bovis infected bite wounds were randomly distributed across all body locations, independently of those locations normally associated with respiratory infection, and positively associated with the incident event of bovine TB infection in badgers, with no association to positive respiratory-related cultures. Badgers with established disease (as detected by microbiological culture) were more likely to have bite wounds than those that were culture negative, which may be a reflection of abnormal increased ranging behaviour of infected badgers. Both bite wound infected individuals and infected individuals with bites may be important for bovine TB transmission to cattle and should be taken into consideration when planning a bovine TB management programme.