Can we breed cattle for lower bovine TB infectivity?

Smaragda Tsairidou*, Adrian Allen, G Banos, MP Coffey, Osvaldo Anacleto, Andrew W Byrne, Robin A Skuce, Elizabeth J Glass, John A Woolliams, AB Doeschl-Wilson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
27 Downloads (Pure)


Host resistance and infectivity are genetic traits affecting infectious disease transmission. This Perspective discusses the potential exploitation of genetic variation in cattle infectivity, in addition to resistance, to reduce the risk, and prevalence of bovine tuberculosis (bTB). In bTB, variability in M. bovis shedding has been previously reported in cattle and wildlife hosts (badgers and wild boars), but the observed differences were attributed to dose and route of infection, rather than host genetics. This article addresses the extent to which cattle infectivity may play a role in bTB transmission, and discusses the feasibility, and potential benefits from incorporating infectivity into breeding programmes. The underlying hypothesis is that bTB infectivity, like resistance, is partly controlled by genetics. Identifying and reducing the number of cattle with high genetic infectivity, could reduce further a major risk factor for herds exposed to bTB. We outline evidence in support of this hypothesis and describe methodologies for detecting and estimating genetic parameters for infectivity. Using genetic-epidemiological prediction models we discuss the potential benefits of selection for reduced infectivity and increased resistance in terms of practical field measures of epidemic risk and severity. Simulations predict that adding infectivity to the breeding programme could enhance and accelerate the reduction in breakdown risk compared to selection on resistance alone. Therefore, given the recent launch of genetic evaluations for bTB resistance and the UK government's goal to eradicate bTB, it is timely to consider the potential of integrating infectivity into breeding schemes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number310
Number of pages8
JournalFrontiers in Veterinary Science
Issue numberDecember
Early online date7 Dec 2018
Publication statusFirst published - 7 Dec 2018


  • Animal breeding
  • Bovine tuberculosis
  • Disease control
  • Disease resistance
  • Infectivity


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