Genetic tracing hailed as key tool in bTB fight

Genetic tracing hailed as key tool in bTB fight

Genetic contact tracing to identify the source of bovine TB outbreaks could help in managing the disease, researchers have found.

Experts from University College Dublin, the University of Edinburgh and the University of York examined the DNA of the bacteria that causes the disease taken from cows and badgers that had tested positive in an area of east Cumbria with no previous infections.

They found that all bacteria taken from the samples were closely related to each other, pointing to a single purchase of cattle as the most likely source of infection.

Rowland Kao, chairman of veterinary epidemiology and data science at The University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute, said: “This was an unusual outbreak in that we were able to trace the infection to a single source – as close to a smoking gun as you can get.

“Badgers are becoming more populous, and farms are becoming bigger and more complex, so the risk of disease spreading from livestock to wild animals will probably persist and even increase as these trends are likely to continue into the future.

“Our findings are very useful for understanding transmission of TB and infection spread in general.”

The study said routine monitoring of both cows and badgers could help to manage early outbreaks of the disease.

It was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and Defra, and is published in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

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