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Research News

Field approaches to identifying Mycobacterium bovis infection in badger populations

24 September 2012

Julian Drewe, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the RVC, has been awarded funding from the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) to work on "field approaches to identifying Mycobacterium bovis infection in badger populations"

Dr Drewe explains what the project will involve: "Control of bovine tuberculosis (TB) in cattle and badgers in the UK is severely constrained by the lack of accurate diagnostic tests to determine which animals are infected with Mycobacterium bovis. Our aim in this project is to improve the diagnosis of TB in badgers. We are using existing and newly-developed diagnostic tests to do this. By identifying animals that contribute most to the spread of infection, targeted disease management (such as vaccination or culling) may be possible. This is attractive because studies in other species have shown markedly increased effectiveness of disease control when this approach is adopted.

Our main objectives include the investigation of strategies for sampling at the badger sett to determine if a badger group is infected with TB, the examination of how diagnostic test results change as the disease progresses, and the development of novel mathematical approaches to better interpret diagnostic test results.

This research builds on our previous work where we showed how it is possible to use a combination of three diagnostic tests to diagnose TB in badgers with an estimated overall accuracy of 75% to 97%. We now aim to develop this approach further and add refinements such as the inclusion of information on previous test results from the same animal.

Overall, this research is expected to further enhance the targeting of sampling strategies for TB in badgers, and if successful would provide us with the most effective means possible for identifying where infected badger groups and individuals were located, taking into account the known limitations of the diagnostic tools available.

This research is being done in collaboration with the Food and Environment Research Agency."

Young Eurasian Badger (Meles Meles)

Young Eurasian Badger (Meles Meles)

Photo: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Badger-badger.jpg


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