Context . Bovine tuberculosis is a persistent disease of livestock in many parts of the world, especially where wildlife hosts co-exist with livestock. In south-western Spain, despite the widespread implementation of test-and-cull strategies for cattle, the herd prevalence in areas with high wild boar densities remains stable. The control of M. bovis infection in wild boar is likely to be essential for effective disease control in livestock.
Methods . We developed an individual-based model to evaluate whether vaccinating wild boar piglets with oral bait would be an effective strategy to reduce the prevalence of M. bovis infection in wild boar populations. Specifically, we quantified the proportion of piglets requiring vaccination and the number of years the vaccination programme would need to continue to eradicate bTB from wild boar within 25 years, comparing ‘managed’ populations on hunting estates where supplementary food is provided, with ‘unmanaged’, free-living populations. Successful vaccination was defined as the proportion of piglets that were delivered the vaccine and were effectively protected from infection.
Key results . Longer-term (25-year) vaccination strategies were more successful than short-term (5-year) strategies at either eradicating M. bovis or reducing it to below 90% of its original prevalence. M. bovis infection could be eradicated under a 25-year vaccination strategy if 80% of piglets were vaccinated in a managed population or 70% of piglets were vaccinated in an unmanaged population. In contrast, 5-year strategies in which 80% of piglets were vaccinated reduced the prevalence of M. bovis only by 27% or 8% in the managed and unmanaged populations, respectively.
Conclusions . The results of our simulation model, coupled with the promising results of initial vaccine and oral bait-uptake trials in wild boar indicated that vaccination could be an effective strategy to reduce the prevalence of M. bovis infection in wild boar if used in conjunction with other disease-control measures.
Implications . The vaccination of piglets over a long-term period has the potential to make an important contribution to the eradication of M. bovis infection from wild boar reservoirs in southern Spain.