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Science blames badgers for TB as new evidence makes case for cull

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: November 30, 2012

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Scientists last night claimed to have produced the clearest evidence yet that bovine tuberculosis does spread between cattle and badgers. Many West Country farmers welcomed the study, but say it merely supports what they already knew.

It comes as new Defra figures released yesterday show the number of cattle slaughtered due to TB had risen again. The statistics show 24,685 cattle were slaughtered to August this year, compared with 23,477 during the same period in 2011, and 21,390 in 2010.

Scientists mapped the genetic blueprints, or genomes, of bacteria from 26 cows and four badgers during bovine TB outbreaks in Northern Ireland.

The analysis made it possible to trace changes in the bacteria’s DNA as it passed from animal to animal.

It revealed that bacteria taken from badgers and cows were closely related at the farm level.

Bacterial strains obtained from badgers and nearby cattle farms were often indistinguishable.

The findings, published in the scientific journal Public Library of Science Pathogens, shed no light on the direction of transmission – whether from badgers to cows or cows to badgers.

Lead scientist Professor Rowland Kao, from the University of Glasgow, said: “This study provides the first direct evidence of the close relationship between tuberculosis infections in cows and local badgers, at a very local scale.

“However, only with a larger study might we be able to quantify the extent and direction of transmission.”

Bacteria from single outbreaks were usually closely related, the study showed. But different herd outbreaks were usually characterised by genetically distinct bacteria.

Controversial plans for a mass badger cull in west Somerset and Gloucestershire to curb the spread of bovine TB have been postponed until next summer.

Opponents, including the RSPCA and Queen guitarist Brian May, argue that a cull would be ineffective and inhumane.

Last night James Small, Somerset county chairman of the National Farmers’ Union said: “This is support for what most farmers already know, that there is a clear link between the spread of TB and wildlife and cattle.

“If cattle can transmit to badgers then it’s not a one-way street. Badgers can transfer it back again and all we can say as an industry is that we are tackling to the best of our ability the disease within cattle and we are still not tackling it in the wildlife.

“This proves a link between the two and we seriously need to be addressing the wildlife reservoir.”

Mr Small estimates that TB cost him £15,000 this year when the beef shorthorn suckler herd side of his business was shut down after a positive TB test in January. David Barton, who farms near Cirencester, slaughtered 44 of his 156-strong herd this year. Last night he said he would decide after tests next month whether to give up his herd.

A Defra spokesman said: “This research adds to existing scientific evidence that bTB is transmitted between cattle and badgers.

“No country in the world has successfully got to grips with the spread of this disease without tackling it in the wildlife population.”

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  • Charlespk  |  December 05 2012, 10:13AM

    You think they are Red Herrings! . That's why I say "You really haven't got a clue have you". http://tinyurl.com/8a7bwy9 (open in a new window) http://tinyurl.com/bwxembw (open in a new window) The risk of contracting M.bovis infection from animals has always been very, very low and was almost unheard of from anything other than cattle on extremely rare occasions. . What intelligent people are now trying to do is make those benign times return and stay that way. Dianne Summers was vaccinated with BCG as a child. . It didn't protect her. With HIV, world travel and mutating strains that are XDR and now far more infectious; things are changing. . These bacteria are insidiously mutating during their 'clonal expansion'. . It's almost a contradiction in terms. The generations that were brought up when TB and poliomyelitis or infantile paralysis(viral), did not have HIV(viral) to worry about. TB and HIV have now formed a very worrying combination. . And they are both going to be extremely difficult to deal with as is MRSA. . Although there has been some exciting genetic modification going on with MRSA (hospital pneumonia) latterly. . Hospital pneumonia is the name given to it so not to frighten people. . A bit like Atypical TB. .Cause of death is always 'Hospital Pneumonia' rarely is it MRSA. . As with scrofula from M.bovis, they say "they caught it off the ground". Back in 1997, Dr. Jerome Harms, now Senior Scientist, Pathobiological Sciences at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Wisconsin-Madison, wrote. "Recently, there have been many outbreaks of M.bovis caused tuberculosis in humans especially HIV+ patients. Most have occurred in countries where M.bovis is endemic in the animal agriculture population. Multi-drug resistant strains of M.bovis are now appearing as well. The significance of this TB threat from M.bovis has not been taken as seriously as the threat from M.tuberculosis (Human TB)" "However, the scientific and medical community must not ignore the potential of an M.bovis TB epidemic." Again; quite prophetically, he wrote that back in 1997. That's nearly SIXTEEN YEARS ago! TB is now at a thirty year high, LONDON is now the TB Capital of Europe and Mycobacterium bovis is endemic in wildlife in the South West of England. There will have to be a cull of badgers, and the longer it is postponed the more severe it will have to be. When we started to fight back against the protection of badgers that was preventing farmers from protecting their cattle, we had no idea that there would be occurrences like Diane Summers with the alpaca or the level of TB nationally.

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  • eyeopener  |  December 04 2012, 10:46PM

    I'm off to bed now - bye.

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  • eyeopener  |  December 04 2012, 10:45PM

    That was my point Charles, you introduce red herrings and when people pick you up on that, you adopt a haughty attitude and say "You really haven't got a clue have you."

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  • Charlespk  |  December 04 2012, 9:52PM

    You really haven't got a clue have you. . They are talking about M.tuberculosis and the overcrowding similar to the Victorian slums. . An ideal breeding ground. . I concentrate on M.bovis and badger setts. . You are finally seeing the relevance and the connection. And why trying to vaccinate wild animals is a bad joke. Just for once listen to what people are telling you. Listen to them carefully. http://tinyurl.com/bu69flh

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  • eyeopener  |  December 04 2012, 9:30PM

    "What else don't you know?" It wasn't my 'not knowing' the question was rethorical. The circumstances of humans contracting TB is quite different in the developing world to that which prevails in Europe, although these can be replicated to some extent in large cities like London. Professor Zumla of UCL (University College London) said: "Poor housing, inadequate ventilation and overcrowding, conditions that were prevalent in Victorian Britain a century ago, are causes of the higher TB incidence rates in certain London boroughs. In all European countries TB is mainly concentrated in high risk groups such as migrants, refugees, homeless, drug users, prisoners and HIV-infected groups." London is a cosmopolitan city and so the incidence of contact with travellers from the Developing World is much greater. That said unpasterised milk is not sold in London and contact with badgers or cattle is minimal.

  • Charlespk  |  December 04 2012, 8:54PM

    There were Asian badgers in India but, I think they ate them all. Asian badger (Meles leucurus)

  • Charlespk  |  December 04 2012, 8:44PM

    Scrofula is the same in any country 'Richard'. These bacteria don't recognise any national borders. But there is a variation in spoligotype and VNTR profile though that allows you to track them. What else don't you know?

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  • eyeopener  |  December 04 2012, 8:35PM

    How many badgers are there in Bangladesh?

  • eyeopener  |  December 04 2012, 8:35PM

    http://tinyurl.com/9r6ennv The link relates to a Bangladeshi child with TB. Bangladesh is in the developing world and the causes are well documented by The World Health Organisation. Badgers are NOT one of them.

  • Charlespk  |  December 04 2012, 8:22PM

    http://tinyurl.com/a249oj9 (OPEN IN A NEW WINDOW) Denial: Unconsciously refusing to accept the full facts or magnitude of some circumstances, in order to minimise or prevent an otherwise inevitable anxiety or similar unpleasant feeling such as anger, guilt, shame, frustration, etc. EMAIL SENT/RECEIVED April 2nd. 2006 County Times. Powys, Mid Wales. "Dear Mary, This is winding up into something very nasty. We were told about the problem last autumn, but the newspapers / media had very little on it. Local vets and farmers knew and fed us bits. This (below) was published 30th. March, and our source has now had another conversation with SVS vets and private vets in the area. In the late 1990's just a couple of farms were under bTb restriction, but that has now surged to become 30/40. Dead badgers have been found in the area, including one on school playing fields. This carcass was taken to test for 'poison'. but HSE stepped in and stopped the post-mortem - inadequate Group 3 pathogen facilities (?). . It was riddled. SVS sent letters to Welsh Assembly / Page St. and they were lost stolen or strayed. The whole episode was buried. Page St. wanted absolutely no positive Tb badgers. In the last 3/4 years eight or nine children, not including this little one, have had treatment for enlarged neck glands. This involved either a 6 month course of antibiotics, or operations to remove. . Classic m.bovis lesions I'm told (by a vet) but referred euphemistically by doctors as "Atypical tuberculosis from a non human source". They are telling these kids, that they picked it up from the ground. The badgers use the school playing fields as latrines, and a newish housing estate borders the same farmland too. We're ignoring those canaries again. (reactor cows)" This is a the typical tuberculosis they can 'pick up off the ground left there by badgers. http://tinyurl.com/9r6ennv ("Atypical" tuberculosis)