Tuberculosis is an infectious disease caused by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex. This infection affects domestic and wild animals and represents a major concern worldwide because of its high economic impact due to mortalities, condemnations, decreases in productions, and its zoonotic potential. Eradication programmes based on a test-and-slaughter policy in the EU have proved successful in some countries, however, have been unable to eradicate the infection in others despite the use of vast economical resources. A relevant problem is the existence of infected wildlife; the best known examples are the European badger (Meles meles) in UK and the Republic of Ireland, and the wild boar (Sus scrofa) in Spain. Besides this fact, there is only a limited knowledge about other potential underlying causes, such as (1) the real contribution of cattle-to-cattle transmission at the same area (neighbouring farms and communal pastures) or after movement of animals; (2) the role played in the epidemiology by other domestic animals, or (3) the effect of interferences in the diagnosis tests. The weight of these causes may also differ depending on the farming system and ecological factors. Likely there is not a single solution as likely there is not a single cause. To approach the eradication of this infection, this TB-STEP project plans a multifaceted battlefront. The consortium is made up of 12 partners from eight countries which will research on eight work-packages devoted to improved tools and to develop strategies for the eradication of bovine tuberculosis in areas where the disease is present in both domestic and wildlife populations. It will include: 1) vaccination of bovine animals and wildlife, (2) control of populations to reach numbers compatible with animal welfare and strategies to limit the contact between domestic and wild species, and (3) the development of improved diagnostic tools for detection of infected animals.
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