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Survival of bovine TB in the farm environment – factsheets now on the TBhub

“Can TB survive in… slurry? …water?…soil? What about silage? How do we identify TB in environmental samples?” These are questions that I have heard at various workshops, discussions and also at meetings with the TB Eradication Groups. I knew that some research had been done on the subject, including some very useful (but quite lengthy) review articles written by DARD in Northern Ireland. To answer these questions I spent a long time looking through the various published papers and reports. Investigating TB survival is difficult and generally involves adding M.bovis to different substances and then testing it (using culture or other methods) to look at survival times. The results of this experimental research demonstrates the potential for M.bovis to survive in in a range of different environments from anywhere between a few weeks and several months. Although a large amount of research has been done on TB survival, unfortunately very little is known about rates of contamination in a natural farm setting. For example, the research shows that M.bovis can survive in slurry for up to 6 months, but we do not have good data on shedding of M.bovis in cattle faeces, so it is unclear how often cattle slurry becomes contaminated.

I have produced summaries of the science with answers to key questions in the form several factsheets which can now be found on the TBhub.

There are three fact sheets currently online

  1. Survival of M. bovis in cattle faeces and slurry.
  2. Survival of M. bovis in feed, water and soil
  3. PCR tests for bovine TB (in the farm environment)