Spatio-temporal distribution of bovine TB in
a high-density badger population
Journal of Animal Ecology, Volume 69,Number 3, May 2000, pp.
The badger is implicated as a reservoir of bTB infection for cattle in
Britain and Ireland. In the present study the spatio-temporal
distribution of bTB infection was investigated. Analyses were
carried out on data from a long-term epidemiological and ecological
study of the dynamics of bTB in a wild population of badgers at
Woodchester Park in south-west England.
During the 15 years of the capture–mark–recapture
study (1982–96), 3316 trapping and post-mortem records were obtained
from 1270 individual badgers. Annual prevalence of infection based on
positive serological and bacterial tests varies between 10·3% and 17·7%
of the population.
Infection was aggregated in social groups in the
west of the study area, confirming the findings of previous studies.
However, temporal trends in disease were not synchronized amongst
neighbouring groups, suggesting low rates of disease transfer between
There was significant serial correlation in the
disease status within groups over time, suggesting that infection
persists for many years in some social groups. The presence of
infectious adult female badgers in groups was associated with new
infections, and provides further evidence for their importance in the
maintenance of infection within groups. However, no statistically
significant correlations were detected between the demographic
characteristics of social groups and group infection status.
The distribution of disease reflects stable
persistent foci of infection in the badger population, with limited
evidence of transfer between social groups. The accurate identification
of stable foci of infection would allow a range of management strategies
for the control of bovine TB to be efficiently targeted in such
populations. However, the extent to which this pattern of infection is
representative of low-density and disturbed badger populations is
disease dynamics; transmission; host social
organization; foci of infection