Comparing badger (Meles meles) management strategies for reducing tuberculosis incidence in cattle
Public Library of Science
Copyright: © 2012 Smith et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Bovine tuberculosis (bTB), caused by Mycobacterium bovis, continues to be a serious economic problem for the British cattle industry. The Eurasian badger (Meles meles) is partly responsible for maintenance of the disease and its transmission to cattle. Previous attempts to manage the disease by culling badgers have been hampered by social perturbation, which in some situations is associated with increases in the cattle herd incidence of bTB. Following the licensing of an injectable vaccine, we consider the relative merits of management strategies to reduce bTB in badgers, and thereby reduce cattle herd incidence. We used an established simulation model of the badger-cattle-TB system and investigated four proposed strategies: business as usual with no badger management, large-scale proactive badger culling, badger vaccination, and culling with a ring of vaccination around it. For ease of comparison with empirical data, model treatments were applied over 150 km(2) and were evaluated over the whole of a 300 km(2) area, comprising the core treatment area and a ring of approximately 2 km. The effects of treatment were evaluated over a 10-year period comprising treatment for five years and the subsequent five year period without treatment. Against a background of existing disease control measures, where 144 cattle herd incidents might be expected over 10 years, badger culling prevented 26 cattle herd incidents while vaccination prevented 16. Culling in the core 150 km(2) plus vaccination in a ring around it prevented about 40 cattle herd breakdowns by partly mitigating the negative effects of culling, although this approach clearly required greater effort. While model outcomes were robust to uncertainty in parameter estimates, the outcomes of culling were sensitive to low rates of land access for culling, low culling efficacy, and the early cessation of a culling strategy, all of which were likely to lead to an overall increase in cattle disease.
Funding: The UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra, http://ww2.defra.gov.uk/) funded this work. Defra designed the three strategies to investigate, but had no role in data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
This is the final version of the article. Available from Public Library of Science via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 7 (6), article e39250
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