In a BBSRC-funded study published in Nature this week, a team of researchers based at the University of Warwick has produced the first national model to investigate the bovine TB spread.
The results derived from the model in the Nature paper, entitled "A dynamic model of bovine tuberculosis spread and control in Great Britain", suggested that the majority of herd outbreaks are caused by multiple transmissions routes – including failed cattle infection tests, cattle movement and reinfection from environmental reservoirs (infected pastures and wildlife). The study suggests that improved testing, vaccination of cattle and culling all cattle on infected farms would be the most effective strategies for controlling the disease.
Based on a study of cattle and the causes of bTB in Great Britain the model sought to ascertain how and why the epidemic has grown over the past 15 years. Using Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency and Defra data, the researchers developed a mathematical model that incorporated both within-farm and between-farm bTB transmission.
"The model we are putting forward can be used to address several potential control methods – but there is no single panacea," said co-author Professor Matthew Keeling, from Warwick's School of Life Sciences and Department of Mathematics. "All controls have advantages, disadvantages and would be problematic and costly to implement. However, we find only three controls have the power to reverse the current increase in cases; more frequent or more accurate testing, vaccination of cattle and culling all cattle on infected farms."