press release
Published: 22 August 2016

Scientists collaborate to shed light on prevalence and geographic distribution of tuberculosis in road-killed badgers

By Peter La

Researchers from the Universities of Surrey, Nottingham and Liverpool are undertaking a collaborative survey of badger carcases for evidence of tuberculosis (TB).

Image of a badger in a woodland environment
  • New Defra-funded project to shed light on the prevalence and geographic distribution of tuberculosis (TB) in badgers in counties on the edge of the cattle TB epidemic
  • While there is evidence to inform cattle-based control measures, the role of badgers in the spread of TB remains unclear
  • A previous study in 2014 found approximately 20% of road-killed badgers in Cheshire were infected with TB, with 10% of those infected having developed signs of the disease
  • Scientists will only use badgers accidentally killed on roads

The survey arises from a collaboration between three university veterinary schools and aims to determine whether or not badgers in the bovine TB edge areas in England - i.e the 11 counties of England adjoining the TB High Risk Area in which the infection is endemic in cattle and badgers – have TB, which strain and if so, how common it is. 

The Universities of Nottingham and Liverpool are covering the northern ‘edge’ counties, while the University of Surrey is focusing on the southern ‘edge’ counties. 

Professor Alasdair Cook from the University of Surrey’s School of Veterinary Medicine, said: “Apart from a survey of badgers in Cheshire conducted by the University of Liverpool in 2014, the prevalence and distribution of TB in badgers living in the Edge Area* of England is currently unknown, but may be of importance in any future TB control policy. 

“While there is plenty of evidence to inform cattle-based control measures, the role of badgers in the spread of TB in the Edge Area counties remains unclear.” 

The survey is expected to run for 12 months, starting August 2016. 

*Edge Area counties: Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cheshire, Derbyshire, East Sussex, Hampshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Warwickshire. 

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