Badger sleeping habits could help target TB control

December 19, 2012

Sleeping away from the family home is linked to health risks for badgers, new research by the University of Exeter and the Food and Environment Research Agency has revealed.

Scientists found that badgers which strayed away from the family burrow in favour of sleeping in outlying dens were more likely to carry TB.

The 12-month study of 40 wild badgers was funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and could have implications for the management of bovine TB in parts of the UK. The behaviour of individual animals is thought to be a key factor in how the disease is spread among animals and livestock. The new findings could help to understand and develop measures to manage TB in badgers.

The study is published online on December 19 2012 in the journal and Sociobiology. The work was carried out by Dr Nicola Weber of the University of Exeter's Cornwall Campus, who said: "At a time when stopping the spread of TB is vital for British farming, it's crucial to understand all of the factors involved in the transmission of the disease. Our research found that some individual badgers are more likely to sleep in setts in the outskirts of their territory. These individuals may be coming into contact with other sources of infection more frequently, meaning they could be more likely to both contract and to spread the disease, either to other badgers or to cattle."

Dr Weber attached collars to badgers from eight groups at Woodchester Park in , where the badger population is naturally infected with TB. Scientists selected a sample of 40 badgers from across the groups to provide a of age and sex.

In the study, each group had a territory made up of one or two main setts, which are used as the primary year-round underground den. They also had between three and eight outlying setts, which were occupied less frequently. The badgers were monitored for 28 consecutive days per season for one year to investigate how patterns differed between individuals.

Professor Robbie McDonald of the University of Exeter said: "Badgers occupying outlying dens are most likely to be looking for a mate, or defending their group territories. We think they acquire infection as a result of living on the periphery and contacting more individuals from other social groups, rather than because they are ostracised as a result of contracting the disease. It would be valuable to test the relationship between behaviour and infection more thoroughly.

"For all sorts of human epidemics, from typhoid to the common cold, some people are known to behave in a particular way which means they are more likely to spread the disease than the average individual. Our research demonstrates that this may also be true of TB in badgers. This knowledge could have long-term implications for managing the . Whatever the means of tackling infection in wildlife, it would be beneficial to know which individuals are most likely to spread TB to and to cattle, and to design cost-effective management measures accordingly."

Explore further: Vaccination reduces the risk of unvaccinated badger cubs testing tuberculosis positive

Related Stories

Vaccination reduces the risk of unvaccinated badger cubs testing tuberculosis positive

December 12, 2012
New evidence from a four-year field study has shown that BCG vaccination reduces the risk of tuberculosis infection in unvaccinated badger cubs in vaccinated groups, as well as in badgers that received the vaccine.

Study provides first direct evidence linking TB infection in cattle and local badger populations

November 29, 2012
Transmission of tuberculosis between cattle and badgers has been tracked at a local scale for the first time, using a combination of bacterial whole genome DNA sequencing and mathematical modelling. The findings highlight ...

Localized reactive badger culling raises bovine tuberculosis risk, new analysis confirms

July 13, 2011
The study, by researchers at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Centre for Outbreak Analysis and Modelling at Imperial College London, is published today in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.

Recommended for you

A large-scale 'germ trap' solution for hospitals

July 26, 2017
When an infectious airborne illness strikes, some hospitals use negative pressure rooms to isolate and treat patients. These rooms use ventilation controls to keep germ-filled air contained rather than letting it circulate ...

Male hepatitis B patients suffer worse liver ailments, regardless of lifestyle

July 25, 2017
Why men with hepatitis B remain more than twice as likely to develop severe liver disease than women remains a mystery, even after a study led by a recent Drexel University graduate took lifestyle choices and environments ...

Mind-body therapies immediately reduce unmanageable pain in hospital patients

July 25, 2017
Mindfulness training and hypnotic suggestion significantly reduced acute pain experienced by hospital patients, according to a new study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Researchers report new system to study chronic hepatitis B

July 25, 2017
Scientists from Princeton University's Department of Molecular Biology have successfully tested a cell-culture system that will allow researchers to perform laboratory-based studies of long-term hepatitis B virus (HBV) infections. ...

Research examines lung cell turnover as risk factor and target for treatment of influenza pneumonia

July 24, 2017
Influenza is a recurring global health threat that, according to the World Health Organization, is responsible for as many as 500,000 deaths every year, most due to influenza pneumonia, or viral pneumonia. Infection with ...

Scientists propose novel therapy to lessen risk of obesity-linked disease

July 24, 2017
With obesity related illnesses a global pandemic, researchers propose in the Journal of Clinical Investigation using a blood thinner to target molecular drivers of chronic metabolic inflammation in people eating high-fat ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.