- 1Tuberculosis (TB) is a chronic disease caused by Mycobacterium bovis and related members of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex. Infection affects not only cattle but also other livestock species, companion animals and wild mammals. Humans are also susceptible; hence, zoonotic infection is a driver for disease control in animal hosts. As bovine TB prevalence has been reduced in livestock, the relative epidemiological and socio-economic importance of wildlife reservoirs has increased, and there is a need for disease management strategies.
- 2We review the current status of TB in European wild mammals, identifying epidemiological trends and areas for future research and management. TB has a complex epidemiology, which may involve multiple hosts, and is influenced by climate and habitat.
- 3Consequently, the role of wild and domestic hosts in the epidemiology of TB varies among regions. In Europe, there are three regional examples of M. bovis maintenance hosts: the Eurasian badger Meles meles in Great Britain and Ireland, the Eurasian wild boar Sus scrofa in the Iberian Peninsula and deer belonging to the subfamily Cervinae in several European regions. In other parts of Europe, these species are currently regarded as spillover hosts, although in time their status may change depending on local or regional risk factors. Nevertheless, in most situations, the relative contribution of wild mammals to M. bovis infection in cattle is still a matter of debate. Also, the outcome of management interventions to control disease in wildlife populations may be complex and counter-intuitive.
- 4As our knowledge of disease dynamics in wild mammals improves, options for disease control in wildlife reservoirs, such as vaccination, improved biosecurity and population management, are likely to broaden. In order to evaluate our existing control options, we must monitor the effects of interventions on TB occurrence in the affected regions of Europe and share our collective experiences.