Estimating the hidden burden of bovine tuberculosis in Great Britain.
ABSTRACT: The number of cattle herds placed under movement restrictions in Great Britain (GB) due to the suspected presence of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) has progressively increased over the past 25 years despite an intensive and costly test-and-slaughter control program. Around 38% of herds that clear movement restrictions experience a recurrent incident (breakdown) within 24 months, suggesting that infection may be persisting within herds. Reactivity to tuberculin, the basis of diagnostic testing, is dependent on the time from infection. Thus, testing efficiency varies between outbreaks, depending on weight of transmission and cannot be directly estimated. In this paper, we use Approximate Bayesian Computation (ABC) to parameterize two within-herd transmission models within a rigorous inferential framework. Previous within-herd models of bTB have relied on ad-hoc methods of parameterization and used a single model structure (SORI) where animals are assumed to become detectable by testing before they become infectious. We study such a conventional within-herd model of bTB and an alternative model, motivated by recent animal challenge studies, where there is no period of epidemiological latency before animals become infectious (SOR). Under both models we estimate that cattle-to-cattle transmission rates are non-linearly density dependent. The basic reproductive ratio for our conventional within-herd model, estimated for scenarios with no statutory controls, increases from 1.5 (0.26-4.9; 95% CI) in a herd of 30 cattle up to 4.9 (0.99-14.0) in a herd of 400. Under this model we estimate that 50% (33-67) of recurrent breakdowns in Britain can be attributed to infection missed by tuberculin testing. However this figure falls to 24% (11-42) of recurrent breakdowns under our alternative model. Under both models the estimated extrinsic force of infection increases with the burden of missed infection. Hence, improved herd-level testing is unlikely to reduce recurrence unless this extrinsic infectious pressure is simultaneously addressed.
Project description:Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is one of the most serious economic animal health problems affecting the cattle industry in Great Britain (GB), with incidence in cattle herds increasing since the mid-1980s. The single intradermal comparative cervical tuberculin (SICCT) test is the primary screening test in the bTB surveillance and control programme in GB and Ireland. The sensitivity (ability to detect infected cattle) of this test is central to the efficacy of the current testing regime, but most previous studies that have estimated test sensitivity (relative to the number of slaughtered cattle with visible lesions [VL] and/or positive culture results) lacked post-mortem data for SICCT test-negative cattle. The slaughter of entire herds ("whole herd slaughters" or "depopulations") that are infected by bTB are occasionally conducted in GB as a last-resort control measure to resolve intractable bTB herd breakdowns. These provide additional post-mortem data for SICCT test-negative cattle, allowing a rare opportunity to calculate the animal-level sensitivity of the test relative to the total number of SICCT test-positive and negative VL animals identified post-mortem (rSe). In this study, data were analysed from 16 whole herd slaughters (748 SICCT test-positive and 1031 SICCT test-negative cattle) conducted in GB between 1988 and 2010, using a bayesian hierarchical model. The overall rSe estimate of the SICCT test at the severe interpretation was 85% (95% credible interval [CI]: 78-91%), and at standard interpretation was 81% (95% CI: 70-89%). These estimates are more robust than those previously reported in GB due to inclusion of post-mortem data from SICCT test-negative cattle.
Project description:The control of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) remains a priority on the public health agenda in Great Britain, after launching in 1998 the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) to evaluate the effectiveness of badger (Meles meles) culling as a control strategy. Our study complements previous analyses of the RBCT data (focusing on treatment effects) by presenting analyses of herd-level risks factors associated with the probability of a confirmed bTB breakdown in herds within each treatment: repeated widespread proactive culling, localized reactive culling and no culling (survey-only).New cases of bTB breakdowns were monitored inside the RBCT areas from the end of the first proactive badger cull to one year after the last proactive cull. The risk of a herd bTB breakdown was modeled using logistic regression and proportional hazard models adjusting for local farm-level risk factors. Inside survey-only and reactive areas, increased numbers of active badger setts and cattle herds within 1500 m of a farm were associated with an increased bTB risk. Inside proactive areas, the number of M. bovis positive badgers initially culled within 1500 m of a farm was the strongest predictor of the risk of a confirmed bTB breakdown.The use of herd-based models provide insights into how local cattle and badger populations affect the bTB breakdown risks of individual cattle herds in the absence of and in the presence of badger culling. These measures of local bTB risks could be integrated into a risk-based herd testing programme to improve the targeting of interventions aimed at reducing the risks of bTB transmission.
Project description:This study determined farm management factors associated with long-duration bovine tuberculosis (bTB) breakdowns disclosed in the period 23 May 2016 to 21 May 2018; a study area not previously subject to investigation in Northern Ireland. A farm-level epidemiological investigation (n = 2935) was completed when one or more Single Intradermal Comparative Cervical Test (SICCT) reactors or when one or more confirmed (positive histological and/or bacteriological result) lesion at routine slaughter were disclosed. A case-control study design was used to construct an explanatory set of management factors associated with long-duration bTB herd breakdowns; with a case (n = 191) defined as an investigation into a breakdown of 365 days or longer. Purchase of infected animal(s) had the strongest association as the most likely source of infection for long-duration bTB herd breakdowns followed by badgers and then cattle-to-cattle contiguous herd spread. However, 73.5% (95% CI 61.1-85.9%) of the herd type contributing to the purchase of infection source were defined as beef fattening herds. This result demonstrates two subpopulations of prolonged bTB breakdowns, the first being beef fattening herds with main source continuous purchase of infected animals and a second group of primary production herds (dairy, beef cows and mixed) with risk from multiple sources.
Project description:Background:Despite rigorous controls placed on herds which disclose ante-mortem test positive cattle to bovine tuberculosis, caused by the infection of Mycobacterium bovis, many herds in Northern Ireland (NI) experience prolonged breakdowns. These herds represent a considerable administrative and financial burden to the State and farming community. Methods:A retrospective observational study was conducted to better understand the factors associated with breakdown duration, which was modelled using both negative binomial and ordinal regression approaches. Results:Six explanatory variables were important predictors of breakdown length in both models; herd size, the number of reactors testing positive in the initial SICCT test, the presence of a lesioned animal at routine slaughter (LRS), the count of M. bovis genotypes during the breakdown (MLVA richness), the local herd-level bTB prevalence, and the presence of herds linked via management factors (associated herds). We report that between 2008 and 2014, mean breakdown duration in NI was 226 days (approx. seven months; median: 188 days). In the same period, however, more than 6% of herds in the region remained under movement restriction for more than 420 days (13 months); almost twice as long as the mean. The MLVA richness variable was a particularly important predictor of breakdown duration. We contend that this variable primarily represents a proxy for beef fattening herds, which can operate by purchasing cattle and selling animals straight to slaughter, despite prolonged trading restrictions. For other herd types, the model supports the hypothesis that prolonged breakdowns are a function of both residual infection within the herd, and infection from the environment (e.g. infected wildlife, contiguous herds and/or a contaminated environment). The impact of badger density on breakdown duration was assessed by including data on main sett (burrow) density. Whilst a positive association was observed in the univariate analysis, confounding with other variables means that the contribution of badgers to prolonged breakdowns was not clear from our study. We do not fully reject the hypothesis that badgers are implicated in prolonging bTB breakdowns via spillback infection, but given our results, we posit that increased disease risk from badgers is unlikely to simply be a function of increasing badger density measured using sett metrics.
Project description:Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) infection is generally correlated with individual cattle's age, sex, body condition, and with husbandry practices such as herd composition, cattle movement, herd size, production system and proximity to wildlife-including bTB maintenance hosts. We tested the correlation between those factors and the prevalence of bTB, which is endemic in Ethiopia's highland cattle, in the Afar Region and Awash National Park between November 2013 and April 2015. A total of 2550 cattle from 102 herds were tested for bTB presence using the comparative intradermal tuberculin test (CITT). Data on herd structure, herd movement, management and production system, livestock transfer, and contact with wildlife were collected using semi-structured interviews with cattle herders and herd owners. The individual overall prevalence of cattle bTB was 5.5%, with a herd prevalence of 46%. Generalized Linear Mixed Models with a random herd-effect were used to analyse risk factors of cattle reactors within each herd. The older the age of the cattle and the lower the body condition the higher the chance of a positive bTB test result, but sex, lactation status and reproductive status were not correlated with bTB status. At herd level, General Linear Models showed that pastoral production systems with transhumant herds had a higher bTB prevalence than sedentary herds. A model averaging analysis identified herd size, contact with wildlife, and the interaction of herd size and contact with wildlife as significant risk factors for bTB prevalence in cattle. A subsequent Structural Equation Model showed that the probability of contact with wildlife was influenced by herd size, through herd movement. Larger herds moved more and grazed in larger areas, hence the probability of grazing in an area with wildlife and contact with either infected cattle or infected wildlife hosts increased, enhancing the chances for bTB infection. Therefore, future bTB control strategies in cattle in pastoral areas should consider herd size and movement as important risk factors.
Project description:Vaccination for the control of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle is not currently used within any international control program, and is illegal within the EU. Candidate vaccines, based upon Mycobacterium bovis bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) all interfere with the action of the tuberculin skin test, which is used to determine if animals, herds and countries are officially bTB-free. New diagnostic tests that Differentiate Infected from Vaccinated Animals (DIVA) offer the potential to introduce vaccination within existing eradication programs. We use within-herd transmission models estimated from historical data from Great Britain (GB) to explore the feasibility of such supplemental use of vaccination. The economic impact of bovine Tuberculosis for farmers is dominated by the costs associated with testing, and associated restrictions on animal movements. Farmers' willingness to adopt vaccination will require vaccination to not only reduce the burden of infection, but also the risk of restrictions being imposed. We find that, under the intensive sequence of testing in GB, it is the specificity of the DIVA test, rather than the sensitivity, that is the greatest barrier to see a herd level benefit of vaccination. The potential negative effects of vaccination could be mitigated through relaxation of testing. However, this could potentially increase the hidden burden of infection within Officially TB Free herds. Using our models, we explore the range of the DIVA test characteristics necessary to see a protective herd level benefit of vaccination. We estimate that a DIVA specificity of at least 99.85% and sensitivity of >40% is required to see a protective benefit of vaccination with no increase in the risk of missed infection. Data from experimentally infected animals suggest that this target specificity could be achieved in vaccinates using a cocktail of three DIVA antigens while maintaining a sensitivity of 73.3% (95%CI: 61.9, 82.9%) relative to post-mortem detection.
Project description:Background: Bovine tuberculosis (bTB; Mycobacterium bovis) remains a significant problem in a number of countries, and is often found where M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP) is also present. In the United Kingdom, bTB has been difficult to eradicate despite long-term efforts. Co-infection has been proposed as one partial mechanism thwarting eradication. Methods: A retrospective case-control study of 4,500 cattle herds in Northern Ireland, where serological testing of cattle for MAP, was undertaken (2004-2015). Blood samples were ELISA tested for MAP; infection of M. bovis was identified in herds by the comparative tuberculin test (CTT) and through post-mortem evidence of infection. Case-herds were those experiencing a confirmed bTB breakdown; control-herds were not experiencing a breakdown episode at the time of MAP testing. A second model included additional testing data of feces samples (culture and PCR results) to better inform herd MAP status. Multi-level hierarchical models were developed, controlling for selected confounders. A sensitivity analysis of the effect of MAP sample numbers per event and the prior timing of tuberculin-testing was undertaken. Results: 45.2% (n = 250) of case observations and 36.0% (3,480) of control observations were positive to MAP by ELISA (45.8% and 36.4% when including ancillary fecal testing, respectively). Controlling for known confounders, the adjusted odds ratio (aOR) for this association was 1.339 (95%CI:1.085-1.652; including ancillary data aOR:1.356;95%CI:1.099-1.673). The size-effect of the association increased with the increasing number of samples per event used to assign herd MAP status (aOR:1.883 at >2 samples, to aOR:3.863 at >10 samples), however the estimated CI increased as N decreased. 41.7% of observations from chronic herds were MAP serology-positive and 32.2% from bTB free herds were MAP positive (aOR: 1.170; 95%ci: 0.481-2.849). Discussion: Cattle herds experiencing a bTB breakdown were associated with increased risk of having a positive MAP status. Chronic herds tended to exhibit higher risk of a positive MAP status than bTB free herds, however there was less support for this association when controlling for repeated measures and confounding. MAP co-infection may be playing a role in the success of bTB eradiation schemes, however further studies are required to understand the mechanisms and to definitively establish causation.
Project description:Post-mortem surveillance in Ireland discloses skin-test negative cattle with presumptive evidence of infection of Mycobacterium bovis (lesions at routine slaughter (LRS)), the causative agent of bovine tuberculosis (bTB). Laboratory confirmation of lesions has impacts on trade restrictions for herds, therefore if laboratory capacity was diminished, how herds are treated would require an informed risk policy. Here we report the proportion of herds with subsequent evidence of within-herd transmission, based on skin-test results. We assess how herd-size, herd-type, and bTB-history affect the probability of additional reactors at follow-up test using univariable and multivariable random-effects models. The study represents a rapid response to developing an evidential base for policy demands during an extraordinary event, the COVID-19 epidemic in Ireland. A dataset from 2005 to 2019 of breakdowns were collated. Overall, 20,116 breakdowns were initiated by LRS cases. During the index tests of these breakdowns, 3931 revealed ?1 skin-test reactor animals (19.54%; ?1 standard reactors: 3827; 19.02%). Increasing herd-size was associated with reactor disclosure on follow-up. For small herds (<33 animals), 11.74% of follow-up tests disclosed ?1 reactor; 24.63% of follow-up tests from very large herds (>137) disclosed ?1 reactors. Beef (13.87%) and "other" (13%) herd production types had lower proportion of index tests with reactors in comparison with dairy (28.27%) or suckler (20.48%) herds. Historic breakdown size during the previous 3-years was associated reactor disclosure risk on follow-up. Our results are useful for rapid tailored policy development aimed at identifying higher risk herds.
Project description:BACKGROUND:We used genetic Multi-Locus VNTR Analysis (MLVA) data gathered from surveillance efforts to better understand the ongoing bovine tuberculosis (bTB) epidemic in Northern Irish cattle herds. We modelled the factors associated with Mycobacterium bovis MLVA genotype richness at three analytical scales; breakdown level, herd level, and patch level, and compared the results between dairy and non-dairy production types. RESULTS:In 83% of breakdowns and in 63% of herds, a single MLVA genotype was isolated. Five or more MLVA genotypes were found in less than 3 % of herds. Herd size and the total number of reactors were important explanatory variables, suggesting that increasing MLVA genotype richness was positively related to increases in the number of host animals. Despite their smaller relative size, however, the highest MLVA genotype richness values were observed in non-dairy herds. Increasing inwards cattle movements were important positive predictors of MLVA genotype richness, but mainly in non-dairy settings. CONCLUSIONS:The principal finding is that low MLVA genotype richness indicates that small-scale epidemics, e.g. wildlife, contiguous farms, and within-herd recrudescence, are important routes of M. bovis infection in cattle herds. We hypothesise that these mechanisms will maintain, but may not explicitly increase, MLVA genotype richness. The presence of elevated MLVA richness is relatively rare and likely indicates beef fattening enterprises, which purchase cattle from over long distances. Cattle movements were furthermore an important predictor of MLVA genotype richness in non-dairy herds, but not in dairy herds; this may represent reduced cattle purchasing levels in dairy enterprises, compared to beef. These observations allude to the relative contribution of different routes of bTB infection between production types; we posit that infection associated with local factors may be more evident in dairy herds than beef herds, however in beef herds, inwards movements offer additional opportunities for introducing M. bovis into the herd.
Project description:Both badgers and livestock movements have been implicated in contributing to the ongoing epidemic of bovine tuberculosis (BTB) in British cattle. However, the relative contributions of these and other causes are not well quantified. We used cattle movement data to construct an individual (premises)-based model of BTB spread within Great Britain, accounting for spread due to recorded cattle movements and other causes. Outbreak data for 2004 were best explained by a model attributing 16% of herd infections directly to cattle movements, and a further 9% unexplained, potentially including spread from unrecorded movements. The best-fit model assumed low levels of cattle-to-cattle transmission. The remaining 75% of infection was attributed to local effects within specific high-risk areas. Annual and biennial testing is mandatory for herds deemed at high risk of infection, as is pre-movement testing from such herds. The herds identified as high risk in 2004 by our model are in broad agreement with those officially designated as such at that time. However, border areas at the edges of high-risk regions are different, suggesting possible areas that should be targeted to prevent further geographical spread of disease. With these areas expanding rapidly over the last decade, their close surveillance is important to both identify infected herds qucikly, and limit their further growth.