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Front. Vet. Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fvets.2018.00109

Bovine tuberculosis in Britain and Ireland – A Perfect Storm? The confluence of potential ecological and epidemiological impediments to controlling a chronic infectious disease.

  • 1Agri Food and Biosciences Institute, United Kingdom

Successful eradication schemes for bovine tuberculosis (bTB) have been implemented in a number of European and other countries over the last 50 years. However, the islands of Britain and Ireland remain a significant aberration to this trend, with the recent exception of Scotland. Why have eradication schemes failed within these countries, while apparently similar programs have been successful elsewhere? While significant socio-economic and political factors have been discussed elsewhere as key determinants of disease eradication, here we review some of the potential ecological and epidemiological constraints that are present in these islands relative to other parts of Europe. We argue that the convergence of these potential factors may interact additively to diminish the potential of the present control programs to achieve eradication. Issues identified include heterogeneity of diagnostic testing approaches, the presence of an abundant wildlife reservoir of infection and the challenge of sustainably managing this risk effectively; the nature, size, density and network structure of cattle farming; potential effects of Mycobacterium bovis strain heterogeneity on disease transmission dynamics; possible impacts of concurrent endemic infections on the disclosure of truly infected animals; climatological differences and change coupled with environmental contamination. We further argue that control and eradication of this complex disease may benefit from an ecosystem level approach to management. We hope that this perspective can stimulate a new conversation about the many factors potentially impacting bTB eradication schemes in Britain and Ireland and possibly stimulate new research in the areas identified.

Keywords: bovine tuberculosis, impediments to eradication, Britain and Ireland, novel hypotheses, Ecosystem Management.

Received: 05 Feb 2018; Accepted: 03 May 2018.

Edited by:

Julio Alvarez, VISAVET Health Surveillance Centre (UCM), Spain

Reviewed by:

Douwe Bakker, self employed
Maria L. Boschiroli, Agence Nationale de Sécurité Sanitaire de l’Alimentation, de l’Environnement et du Travail (ANSES), France  

Copyright: © 2018 Allen, Skuce and Byrne. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Adrian Allen, Agri Food and Biosciences Institute, Belfast, United Kingdom, adrian.allen@afbini.gov.uk