A Targeted Approach to Controlling Tuberculosis in Wild Meerkats
Whilst there may be good reasons for controlling some diseases of wildlife (e.g. zoonotic risk to people, livestock health, conservation, or welfare), achieving this is often problematic, with difficulties relating to availability of tests, knowledge of the disease transmission, and physically getting hold of enough animals. Reducing the number of animals needing to be caught would reduce costs, and increase the ease of a control programme, and so this work is looking at whether a targeted approach can work. Individuals may be more likely to transmit infections due to their social behaviours. High risk individuals theoretically make the most efficient targets for control measures. This project is investigating whether a meerkat’s risk of being infected with tuberculosis (a common, transmissible infection in the study population) is affected by the control measure applied. Two targeted vaccination strategies are being trialled: one whereby group members with the greatest number of social contacts are vaccinated, and secondly, where treatment is applied to individuals considered most likely to become infected. Individuals in these groups, and accompanying control groups are being tested regularly throughout this two year study to check on their infection status.