Nature 439, 843-846 (16 February 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature04454

Positive and negative effects of widespread badger culling on tuberculosis in cattle

See associated Correspondence: Donnelly & Woodroffe, Nature 485, 582 (May 2012)Donnelly & Woodroffe, Nature 526, 640 (October 2015)

Christl A. Donnelly1,2, Rosie Woodroffe2,3, D. R. Cox2,4, F. John Bourne2, C. L. Cheeseman5, Richard S. Clifton-Hadley6, Gao Wei1, George Gettinby2,7, Peter Gilks1, Helen Jenkins1, W. Thomas Johnston1, Andrea M. Le Fevre1,10, John P. McInerney2,8 and W. Ivan Morrison2,9

Human and livestock diseases can be difficult to control where infection persists in wildlife populations. For three decades, European badgers (Meles meles) have been culled by the British government in a series of attempts to limit the spread of Mycobacterium bovis, the causative agent of bovine tuberculosis (TB), to cattle1. Despite these efforts, the incidence of TB in cattle has risen consistently, re-emerging as a primary concern for Britain's cattle industry. Recently, badger culling has attracted controversy because experimental studies have reached contrasting conclusions (albeit using different protocols), with culled areas showing either markedly reduced2, 3 or increased4, 5 incidence of TB in cattle. This has confused attempts to develop a science-based management policy. Here we use data from a large-scale, randomized field experiment to help resolve these apparent differences. We show that, as carried out in this experiment, culling reduces cattle TB incidence in the areas that are culled, but increases incidence in adjoining areas. These findings are biologically consistent with previous studies2, 3, 4, 5 but will present challenges for policy development.

  1. Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London, St. Mary's Campus, Norfolk Place, London W2 1PG, UK
  2. Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB, c/o Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, 1A Page Street, London SW1P 4PQ, 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. Central Science Laboratory, Sand Hutton, York YO41 1LZ, UK
  6. Veterinary Laboratories Agency, Woodham Lane, New Haw, Addlestone, Surrey KT15 3NB, UK
  7. Department of Statistics and Modelling Science, University of Strathclyde, Richmond Street, Glasgow G1 1XH, UK
  8. Centre for Rural Research, University of Exeter, Lafrowda House, St German's Road, Exeter EX4 6TL, UK
  9. Centre for Tropical Veterinary Medicine, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh, Easter Bush, Roslin, Midlothian EH25 9RG, UK
  10. †Present address: Infectious Disease Epidemiology Unit, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT, 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).

Received 24 October 2005; Accepted 28 November 2005


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