Letters to Nature

Nature 426, 834-837 (18 December 2003) | doi:10.1038/nature02192; Received 3 November 2003; Accepted 10 November 2003; Published online 23 November 2003

Impact of localized badger culling on tuberculosis incidence in British cattle

See associated Correspondence: Donnelly & Woodroffe, Nature 485, 582 (May 2012)

Christl A. Donnelly1,2, Rosie Woodroffe1,3, D. R. Cox1,4, John Bourne1, George Gettinby1,5, Andrea M. Le Fevre2, John P. McInerney1,6 & W. Ivan Morrison1,7

  1. Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB, c/o Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, 1A Page Street, London SW1P 4PQ, UK
  2. Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London, St Mary's Campus, Norfolk Place, London W2 1PG, UK
  3. Department of Wildlife, Fish & Conservation Biology, University of California, One Shields Avenue, Davis, California 95616, USA
  4. Nuffield College, New Road, Oxford OX1 1NF, UK
  5. Department of Statistics and Modelling Science, University of Strathclyde, George Street, Glasgow G1 1XH, UK
  6. Centre for Rural Research, University of Exeter, Lafrowda House, St German's Road, Exeter EX4 6TL, UK
  7. The Centre for Tropical Veterinary Medicine, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh, Easter Bush, Roslin, Midlothian EH25 9RG, UK

Correspondence to: Christl A. Donnelly1,2 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to C.A.D. (Email: c.donnelly@imperial.ac.uk).

Pathogens that are transmitted between wildlife, livestock and humans present major challenges for the protection of human and animal health, the economic sustainability of agriculture, and the conservation of wildlife. Mycobacterium bovis, the aetiological agent of bovine tuberculosis (TB), is one such pathogen. The incidence of TB in cattle has increased substantially in parts of Great Britain in the past two decades, adversely affecting the livelihoods of cattle farmers and potentially increasing the risks of human exposure. The control of bovine TB in Great Britain is complicated by the involvement of wildlife, particularly badgers (Meles meles), which appear to sustain endemic infection and can transmit TB to cattle1. Between 1975 and 1997 over 20,000 badgers were culled as part of British TB control policy, generating conflict between conservation and farming interest groups2. Here we present results from a large-scale field trial3, 4, 5 that indicate that localized badger culling not only fails to control but also seems to increase TB incidence in cattle.