Tuberculosis Epidemiology and Badger (Meles meles) Spatial Ecology in a Hot-Spot Area in Atlantic Spain (Acevedo et al. 2019)

We provide a temporal overview (from 2012 to 2018) of the outcomes of tuberculosis (TB) in the cattle and badger populations in a hot-spot in Asturias (Atlantic Spain). We also study the badger`s spatial ecology from an epidemiological perspective in order to describe hazardous behavior in relation to TB transmission between cattle and badgers. Culture and single intradermal tuberculin test (SITT) were available for cattle as part of the National Program for the Eradication of TB. A field survey was also carried out in order to determine the paddocks and buildings used by each farm, and the information obtained was stored by using geographic information systems. Moreover, eighty-three badgers were submitted for necropsy and subsequent bacteriological studies. Ten badgers were also tracked, using global positioning system (GPS) collars. The prevalence of TB in cattle herds in the hot-spot increased from 2.2% in 2012 to 20% in 2016; it then declined to 0.0% in 2018. In contrast, the TB prevalence in badgers increased notably (from 5.55% in 2012-2015 to 10.64% in 2016-2018). Both cattle and badgers shared the same strain of Mycobacterium bovis. The collared badgers preferred paddocks used by TB-positive herds in spring and summer (when they were more active). The males occupied larger home ranges than the females (Khr95: males 149.78 ± 25.84 ha and females 73.37 ± 22.91 ha; Kcr50: males 29.83 ± 5.69 ha and females 13.59 ± 5.00 ha), and the home ranges were smaller in autumn and winter than in summer. The averages of the index of daily and maximum distances traveled by badgers were 1.88 ± (SD) 1.20 km and 1.99 ± 0.71 km, respectively. One of them presented a dispersive behavior with a maximum range of 18.3 km. The most preferred habitat was apple orchards in all seasons, with the exception of winter, in which they preferred pastures.

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