Meerkats research is simples for Vet College scientist

A SCIENTIST from Times Territory has discovered how tuber-culosis (TB) spreads between meerkats.

Dr Julian Drewe, who is based at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in Brookmans Park, made the discovery during a research trip to South Africa.

The 32-year-old spent two years studying meerkats – made popular by the car insurance TV adverts starring Aleksandr Orlov – in the Kalahari Desert.

His study found that the furry mammals catch TB by grooming their friends and can pass it onto their enemies by biting them.

Dr Drewe, who lives in Melbourn, Cambs, said: “This research helps us understand infectious disease transmission in humans and other species in which TB is a problem, such as badgers and cattle.

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“The findings help us to identify which individuals in a large population are most at risk of infection.

“The aim now is to find ways to prevent these from infecting others, for example by vaccination.”

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He added: “Not many people realise that wild meerkats get TB.

“We were able to study their wide range of social interactions in incredible detail in order to gain a better understanding of this important disease.”

TB – also known as consumption – has been present in humans since antiquity and remains a huge problem in many countries today.

In the UK, testing cattle and compensating farmers for losses as a result of TB costs the British taxpayer more than �100m each year.

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