The herd incidence of confirmed Mycobacterium bovis infection in cattle in the south-west of England has been approximately ten times that of the remainder of England and Wales; this greater incidence has been attributed to infection from badgers. The incidence of herds with only non-visible lesioned tuberculin test reactors, from which M. bovis was not isolated, has also remained higherin the south-west region.
The incidences of these latter unconfirmed incidents were compared in parishes in the south-west region in which M. bovis in cattle had been confirmed, and those where M. bovis had not been confirmed, for the period 1979–83. This analysis was carried out both for those parishes in which herds had been subjected to annual tuberculin testing and for those subjected to biennial tuberculin testing. The incidence of unconfirmed incidents was significantly higher in parishes in which confirmedincidents had occurred, and this difference was found in both the annual and biennially tested parishes. The relative risks for the incidence of unconfirmed incidents in annually and biennially tested parishes were 1*89 and 2–56, respectively. The incidence of unconfirmed incidents in biennially tested parishes was lower than in annually tested parishes.
The incidence of non-specific tuberculin test reactor herds was estimated from tuberculin test results in the eastern region of England during a period when tuberculosis was not confirmed in cattle. A comparison of this incidence and that of unconfirmed incidents in the south-west region suggests that approximately 70% of the unconfirmed incidents in the south-west were related to exposure to M. bovis.
The results of the analyses indicate that unconfirmed incidents cannot be completely ignored in epidemiological analyses and studies of bovine tuberculosis in the problem areas of the south-west region of England.