Phylodynamics of Mycobacterium bovis in badgers

Rowland Kao and Roman Biek

Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) is the most prominent disease of livestock in Great Britain today, and the subject of significant controversy regarding the role of the Eurasian badger in spreading the disease. Our aim is to develop transformative insights into the role of the badger by obtaining whole genome sequences on up to 268 samples of Mycobacterium bovis (the causative agent of bTB) taken over a period of 23 years from a long term badger study plus up to 29 samples from nearby cattle (i.e. within 1 km).
We shall use a combination of evolutionary and epidemiological approaches to analyses these data, using novel mathematical modelling frameworks (Œphylodynamics¹) to exploit the combination of detailed genetic and population data available. In doing so, we shall determine whether or not badgers are the main contributor to the persistence of bTB in this area.