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Positive and negative effects of widespread badger culling on tuberculosis in cattle

Donnelly, C.A. and Woodroffe, R. and Cox, D.R. and Bourne, F.J. and Cheeseman, C.L. and Clifton-Hadley, Richard S. and Wei, G. and Gettinby, G. (2006) Positive and negative effects of widespread badger culling on tuberculosis in cattle. Nature, 439 (7078). pp. 843-846. ISSN 0028-0836

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Abstract

Human and livestock diseases can be difficult to control where infection persists in wildlife populations. For three decades, European badgers (Meles meles) have been culled by the British government in a series of attempts to limit the spread of Mycobacterium bovis, the causative agent of bovine tuberculosis (TB), to cattle(1). Despite these efforts, the incidence of TB in cattle has risen consistently, re-emerging as a primary concern for Britain's cattle industry. Recently, badger culling has attracted controversy because experimental studies have reached contrasting conclusions ( albeit using different protocols), with culled areas showing either markedly reduced(2,3) or increased(4,5) incidence of TB in cattle. This has confused attempts to develop a science-based management policy. Here we use data from a large-scale, randomized field experiment to help resolve these apparent differences. We show that, as carried out in this experiment, culling reduces cattle TB incidence in the areas that are culled, but increases incidence in adjoining areas. These findings are biologically consistent with previous studies(2-5) but will present challenges for policy development.