22 October 1999

Do all badgers transmit TB?

EXPERIMENTAL studies prove badgers can give TB to cattle, but scientists dont know the proportion of TB breakdowns they are responsible for or how that transmission occurs.

Badgers could be responsible for 5% or 95% of the TB in cattle, said Rosie Woodroffe of Warwick Uni-versity, adding that other wildlife and cattle can also spread TB.

"We need to know the proportion of badgers carrying TB, where they are, and how big a risk to cattle they pose."

She believes the triplet trials will help answer these questions. This will show whether the distribution of badgers affects TB incidence.

"We want to discover whether cattle are at risk where there are more badgers, if culling badgers helps or makes it worse and if cattle and badgers can be kept apart."

Culling badgers could increase risks to cattle, because a lower density of badgers encourages them to move around more and that could spread disease. Normally badgers stay where they are born or move to a neighbouring territory when there is no space for them.