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In eLife ; h5-index 0.0

Quantifying pathogen transmission in multi-host systems is difficult, as exemplified in bovine tuberculosis (bTB) systems, but is crucial for control. The agent of bTB, Mycobacterium bovis, persists in cattle populations worldwide, often where potential wildlife reservoirs exist. However, the relative contribution of different host species to bTB persistence is generally unknown. In Britain, the role of badgers in infection persistence in cattle is highly contentious, despite decades of research and control efforts. We applied Bayesian phylogenetic and machine-learning approaches to bacterial genome data to quantify the roles of badgers and cattle in M. bovis infection dynamics in the presence of data biases. Our results suggest that transmission occurs more frequently from badgers to cattle than vice versa (10.4x in the most likely model) and that within-species transmission occurs at higher rates than between-species transmission for both. If representative, our results suggest that control operations should target both cattle and badgers.

Crispell Joseph, Benton Clare H, Balaz Daniel, De Maio Nicola, Ahkmetova Assel, Allen Adrian, Biek Roman, Presho Eleanor L, Dale James, Hewinson Glyn, Lycett Samantha J, Nunez-Garcia Javier, Skuce Robin A, Trewby Hannah, Wilson Daniel J, Zadoks Ruth N, Delahay Richard J, Kao Rowland Raymond


Mycobacterium bovis, badger, bovine tuberculosis, cattle, epidemiology, global health, infectious disease, microbiology, whole genome sequencing