Breeding cattle for low bTB transmission (PhD)
About this project
Despite tremendous control efforts, bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) remains one of the most persistent livestock diseases in the UK. Building on research from Roslin and SRUC, AHDB launched in 2016 the genetic index ‘TB Advantage’, which enables farmers to select bulls with improved genetic bTB resistance without reducing genetic gain in other important health and production traits. Empirical evidence now suggests that cattle may also differ genetically in their capacity to infect their herd mates (infectivity), and that genetic selection of cattle with low infectivity may be a very effective complementary to reduce bTB incidence and prevalence. At present, it is not possible to access genetic diversity in cattle infectivity for the control of bTB or any other livestock diseases.
In this PhD project, we aim to develop new genetic - epidemiological models that can capture the full host genetic diversity underlying bTB transmission between cattle from the available genetic and epidemiological bTB surveillance data. In particular, we aim to build on our recently developed inference methods to estimate, for the first time, genetic risk and identify genomic regions for both infectivity in addition to susceptibility of cattle to bTB.
Besides producing novel prediction tools and scientific insights into cattle genetic effects underlying bTB transmission, this project will potentially equip the cattle industry with a novel breeding target trait (animal infectivity) for reducing transmission of bTB, and other diseases in the future.