A RECENT Exeter meeting (February 2) of vets exposed the fundamental mistakes which are preventing eradication of cattle TB, writes Martin Hancox.

Badgers have been blamed for nearly 50 years as 'the main cause of the spread of Cattle TB', but this all goes back to one bizarre misunderstanding over how TB works in cows.

MAFF vets and Lord Zuckerman in the mid-1970s, wrongly assumed that only the rare 'open visible lesion' reactor cows could spread TB.

But unlike human TB M. tuberculosis, bovine TB M. bovis do not form 'closed tubercles', so reactors are infectious at any stage of the disease.

And they also failed to realise that all the 'NVL unconfirmed' reactors with no visible lesions in the lungs are merely the newly infected early TB.

So, within herd spread by close aerosol 'contact' in barns produces c. 3 NVL cases/ breakdown, which disperse to cause a scatter of three unconfirmed breakdowns.

Absolutely nothing to do with badgers after all.

Ironically, two Irish studies re-discovered the fact that all unconfirmed reactors have caught respiratory TB from other cows, and 20 per cent were infectious.

As noted in a 'Guilty secret of kissing cows' article in the New Scientist.

Amazingly vets describing the Gatscombe, Devon chronic herd problem noted that TB only persisted in the housed dairy section, with shared airspace, with no badger visits to barns.

The beef section kept outdoors didn't have aerosol spread, sustaining TB there.

Bravo, however, clearly using two new fast blood tests are the simple way to clear TB from chronic herds, IDEXX Ab, and ACTIPHAGE.

Some 60 chronic herds currently in Devon and in Wales.

Some £30 million wasted culling 32,062 badgers from across around half of each of the south counties last year.

Money far better spent with these new tests.

Martin Hancox