Genomic epidemiology of Mycobacterium bovis infection in sympatric badger and cattle populations in Northern Ireland

Akhmetova, A. et al. (2023) Genomic epidemiology of Mycobacterium bovis infection in sympatric badger and cattle populations in Northern Ireland. Microbial Genomics, 9(5), 001023. (doi: 10.1099/mgen.0.001023) (PMID:37227264) (PMCID:PMC10272874)

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Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is a costly, epidemiologically complex, multi-host, endemic disease. Lack of understanding of transmission dynamics may undermine eradication efforts. Pathogen whole-genome sequencing improves epidemiological inferences, providing a means to determine the relative importance of inter- and intra-species host transmission for disease persistence. We sequenced an exceptional data set of 619 Mycobacterium bovis isolates from badgers and cattle in a 100 km2 bTB ‘hotspot’ in Northern Ireland. Historical molecular subtyping data permitted the targeting of an endemic pathogen lineage, whose long-term persistence provided a unique opportunity to study disease transmission dynamics in unparalleled detail. Additionally, to assess whether badger population genetic structure was associated with the spatial distribution of pathogen genetic diversity, we microsatellite genotyped hair samples from 769 badgers trapped in this area. Birth death models and TransPhylo analyses indicated that cattle were likely driving the local epidemic, with transmission from cattle to badgers being more common than badger to cattle. Furthermore, the presence of significant badger population genetic structure in the landscape was not associated with the spatial distribution of M. bovis genetic diversity, suggesting that badger-to-badger transmission is not playing a major role in transmission dynamics. Our data were consistent with badgers playing a smaller role in transmission of M. bovis infection in this study site, compared to cattle. We hypothesize, however, that this minor role may still be important for persistence. Comparison to other areas suggests that M. bovis transmission dynamics are likely to be context dependent, with the role of wildlife being difficult to generalize.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:This work was funded by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs for Northern Ireland (DAERA-NI) through its ‘Evidence and Innovation’ programme – project no. 15/3/07. Additional funding was provided by the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) – grant numbers BB/P0105598 and BB/M01262X.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Pepler, Dr Theo and Biek, Professor Roman and Kao, Professor Rowland and Akhmetova, Assel and Crispell, Mr Joseph and Oravcova, Dr Katarina and Salvador, Dr Liliana
Authors: Akhmetova, A., Guerrero, J., McAdam, P., Salvador, L. C.M., Crispell, J., Lavery, J., Presho, E., Kao, R. R., Biek, R., Menzies, F., Trimble, N., Harwood, R., Pepler, P. T., Oravcova, K., Graham, J., Skuce, R., du Plessis, L., Thompson, S., Wright, L., Byrne, A. W., and Allen, A. R.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Biodiversity, One Health & Veterinary Medicine
Journal Name:Microbial Genomics
Publisher:Microbiology Society
ISSN (Online):2057-5858
Published Online:25 May 2023
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2023 Crown Copyright
First Published:First published in Microbial Genomics 9(5): 001023
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
170509US-UK Collab: Mycobacterial Transmission Dynamics in Agricultural Systems: Integrating Phylogenetics, Epidemiology, Ecology and EconomicsRowland KaoBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)BB/M01262X/1Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine