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DEFRA publishes Reading TB report – University of Reading

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DEFRA publishes Reading TB report

Release Date 24 November 2005

a cowBovine tuberculosis (TB) is a growing problem in Great Britain. Over recent years there has been a year-on-year increase in cattle culled of around 18% and costs to the Government of £88.2m in 2004. Farmers and others, including vets, are very concerned about our inability to control this rising epidemic using present methods of cattle testing and culling. The Government has identified an urgent need to re-examine its bovine TB control policies. To assist Defra in providing advice to the Government, VEERU (Veterinary Epidemiology and Economics Research Unit), in the Department of Agriculture, was asked to carry out a review of the international evidence for an interrelationship between cattle and wildlife in the transmission of bovine TB. Dr Tony Wilsmore and Mr Nick Taylor completed the review to a tight timescale in August and September this year. The review has recently been made public on the Defra website - http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/tb/index.htm - along with the resulting advice provided by the Defra Science Advisory Council to Defra's Chief Scientific Advisor, Howard Dalton - http://www.defra.gov.uk/science/how/advisory05d.htm. A policy announcement on bovine TB by the Minister is expected shortly. The VEERU report reviews the available outputs of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB (ISG), who are conducting a large-scale field trial on badger culling strategies, and other scientific literature and reports on bovine TB in cattle and wildlife, concentrating on material produced since the last major review of Kreb's in 1997. Specifically pertinent to the question of badger culling, material covering aspects of badger ecology and behaviour is reviewed. The report concludes that there is strong evidence that the badger population of Britain can provide a reservoir of infection for bovine TB. There is also good evidence for indirect contact between badgers and cattle and contamination of fields and cattle housing and feed stores and troughs by excreta and discharges from infected badgers. However, since 1997, studies of badger culling exercises in Britain have so far failed to provide any clear indication that culling badgers has a useful effect on the incidence of herd breakdowns. On the contrary, there is some evidence that culling badgers leads to 'social perturbation' that can result in increased movements of badgers with further dissemination of the disease in the badger population which may lead to more, rather than less, herd breakdowns. There is also evidence for transmission from herd to herd not involving badgers, both locally and over long distances. This, together with experiences from other countries, emphasises the need for effective and comprehensive control measures within the cattle population. It is important that research into other strategies, such as separation of badgers from cattle through biosecurity measures, and vaccination of the badger population should be continued. end For media enquiries, please contact Craig Hillsley, the University's press officer on T: 0118 378 7388, E: c.hillsley@rdg.ac.uk

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