Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is a chronic infectious disease mainly caused by Mycobacterium bovis. Although eradication is a priority for the European authorities, bTB remains active or even increasing in many countries, causing significant economic losses. The integral consideration of epidemiological factors is crucial to more cost-effectively allocate control measures. The aim of this study was to identify the nature and extent of the association between TB distribution and a list of potential risk factors regarding cattle, wild ungulates and environmental aspects in Ciudad Real, a Spanish province with one of the highest TB herd prevalences.
We used a Bayesian mixed effects multivariable logistic regression model to predict TB occurrence in either domestic or wild mammals per municipality in 2007 by using information from the previous year. The municipal TB distribution and endemicity was clustered in the western part of the region and clearly overlapped with the explanatory variables identified in the final model: (1) incident cattle farms, (2) number of years of veterinary inspection of big game hunting events, (3) prevalence in wild boar, (4) number of sampled cattle, (5) persistent bTB-infected cattle farms, (6) prevalence in red deer, (7) proportion of beef farms, and (8) farms devoted to bullfighting cattle.
The combination of these eight variables in the final model highlights the importance of the persistence of the infection in the hosts, surveillance efforts and some cattle management choices in the circulation of M. bovis in the region. The spatial distribution of these variables, together with particular Mediterranean features that favour the wildlife-livestock interface may explain the M. bovis persistence in this region. Sanitary authorities should allocate efforts towards specific areas and epidemiological situations where the wildlife-livestock interface seems to critically hamper the definitive bTB eradication success.