Letter

Nature 435, 491-496 (26 May 2005) | doi:10.1038/nature03548; Received 20 January 2005; Accepted 18 March 2005

Cattle movements and bovine tuberculosis in Great Britain

M. Gilbert1, A. Mitchell2, D. Bourn3, J. Mawdsley2, R. Clifton-Hadley2 & W. Wint3

  1. Biological Control and Spatial Ecology CP160/12, Université Libre de Bruxelles, avenue F.D. Roosevelt 50, B-1050 Brussels, Belgium
  2. Veterinary Laboratories Agency, Weybridge, New Haw, Addlestone, Surrey KT15 3NB, UK
  3. Environmental Research Group Oxford Limited, PO Box 346, Oxford OX1 3QE, UK

Correspondence to: W. Wint3 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to W.W. (Email: william.wint@zoo.ox.ac.uk).

For 20 years, bovine tuberculosis (BTB) has been spreading in Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland) and is now endemic in the southwest and parts of central England and in southwest Wales, and occurs sporadically elsewhere. Although its transmission pathways remain poorly understood, the disease's distribution was previously modelled statistically by using environmental variables and measures of their seasonality1. Movements of infected animals have long been considered a critical factor in the spread of livestock diseases, as reflected in strict import/export regulations, the extensive movement restrictions imposed during the 2001 foot-and-mouth disease outbreak2, 3, the tracing procedures after a new case of BTB has been confirmed and the Government's recently published strategic framework for the sustainable control on BTB4. Since January 2001 it has been mandatory for stock-keepers in Great Britain to notify the British Cattle Movement Service of all cattle births, movements and deaths5. Here we show that movements as recorded in the Cattle Tracing System data archive, and particularly those from areas where BTB is reported, consistently outperform environmental, topographic and other anthropogenic variables as the main predictor of disease occurrence. Simulation distribution models for 2002 and 2003, incorporating all predictor categories, are presented and used to project distributions for 2004 and 2005.

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