In the same edition of 'Nature' as the work by the Oxford team, (see post below) is a critical analysis in rather more readable form by Mark Woolhouse of the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Infectious Diseases, who concludes;
" In a further analysis, (of Spatial multiple logistic regression), Gilbert et al, found that cattle movements played a more obvious role outside the 'core' areas where bTb is already established, implying that movements are more important for the spread of disease than for its persistence. Indeed there are regions where bTb occurs only sporadically despite regular imports of cattle from infected areas. Some other necessary factor seems to be missing - which brings the discussion round to wildlife reservoirs and especially the badger".
At the risk of being disrespectful, we would also flag up the another apparently 'missing factor', referred to and reported by Matthew 4 in the post below. That is the collective brain cell of the Oxford team in totally ignoring the obvious.
A point so eloquently picked up by Mark Woolhouse who continues:
"Badgers are known to carry bTb, but Gilbert and colleague's study is equivocal (that's a a polite way of saying dubious, of double meaning, questionable etc.) on the animal's role in the epidemiology of the disease in British cattle. Proximity to known badger locations does appear in their analysis - but it is not prominent".
"To better understand the role of badgers in the persistence of bTb, we need to turn to experimental studies such as the Four Counties trial in Ireland, the results of which were published this year. (and Offaly, and Thornbury, Steeple Leez and Hartland)
Mark Woolhouse concludes that the Four County trial with a reduction of up to 95 percent in cattle Tb relative to its reference areas "is the clearest demonstration to date of a link between badgers and bovine tb in cattle. Given the incidence of bovine tb in Britain is expected to remain high, or even increase further, the sooner that effective control measures are introduced, the better. "
We agree. But would add a caution; that any attempt to clamp down on cattle movements by either pre / post movement testing must be for disease control reasons and not political expediency, and run concurrent to and simultaneous with the clearance of bTb from all known wildlife reservoirs.
Infectious bacteria do not respond to political bullying - they just spread..................