Saturday, February 17, 2018

Zoonotic Tuberculosis and straw men

When people have little to add to a debate, they often stand up a 'straw man' and then spend a huge amount of time and oxygen knocking him down. And so it is with the eradication of this insidious disease, which we call bovine TB - or more accurately, zoonotic Tuberculosis.

It is fourteen long years since we asked our 500 Parliamentary questions of the then Minister of a Labour administration. Most of the answers were logged on the site, in 2004.

The crucial one was efficacy of the intradermal skin test, used as a herd test, and how effective it was at clearing TB from cattle herds. The answer was given in this list - Column 540 [150492] [link]
"All countries that have either eradicated, or have a programme to control, bovine tuberculosis use one or more forms of the skin test. The Government have close links with a number of countries in various stages of eradication and exchanges information and experiences on the use of the tests in the context of these programmes."
So why has the straw man of how rubbish the skin test is, been allowed to gain traction?

The answer to that is money [link] Plain and simple. Research is followed by the begging bowl for more research. Why? Those PQs in 2003/4 told us all that Defra already knew about how infectious badgers were, how they were an ideal maintenance reservoir of this zoonotic disease, and how they passed the bacteria between themselves and on to cattle and other mammals. We explored how much bacteria was excreted by these creatures and how little it took to infect a cow. How long m.bovis survived under various conditions, and what killed it. At one point we were accused of backing the badger lobby, when our PQs explored how much badgers suffered from this disease.

We back the eradication of a Grade 3 zoonotic pathogen, nothing else.

Nothing has changed, except that after twenty years of ultimate protection, there are now many more badgers and hundreds more infected / infectious ones spreading a lethal load into the environment.

 But still those straw men keep coming. The latest being Cath Rees's Phage test - [link] turned down for use in human pulmonary tuberculosis, its use is being proposed for our cattle. No matter that phage screening is not, and never has been used as a diagnostic test. The research has been done, and now must be sold to recoup laboratory costs. Ker-ching.

 And then there is politics. And an election looming, with an opposition determined to hug fluffy things and pander to minority groups - at any cost. That's Corbyn, but the echo chamber that is Michael Gove is looking to his next job, and holding hands with a super-annuated rock star, for inspiration. - [link]

So once again we'll end this posting with another PQ which explained why the Thornbury badger clearance had been so successful.
" The fundamental difference between the Thornbury area and other areas [] where bovine tuberculosis was a problem, was the systematic removal of badgers from the Thornbury area. No other species was similarly removed. No other contemporaneous change was identified that could have accounted for the reduction in TB incidence within the area" [157949]

Here is the result, compared with other less successful badger culls. Especially that charade with passed for 'science' a decade ago, where 8 nights of culling with cage traps, splintered an infectious population and then the operators walked away.

So while Brian May quotes John Bourne's well edited Final Report, he would do better to read that odious little man's evidence to EFRAcom in 2007, where he boasted that at the end of his trial, culling badgers was not to be part of the solution.
And those were his instructions at the beginning. -[link]

Stick to the basics, keep it simple. Everything else is just so many straw men.  

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