INTRODUCTION: The European badger (Meles meles) is a known wildlife reservoir for bovine tuberculosis (bTB) and a better understanding of the epidemiology of bTB in this wildlife species is required for disease control in both wild and farmed animals. Flow infusion electrospray-high-resolution mass spectrometry (FIE-HRMS) may potentially identify novel metabolite biomarkers based on which new, rapid, and sensitive point of care tests for bTB infection could be developed.
OBJECTIVES: In this foundational study, we engaged on assessing the baseline metabolomic variation in the non-bTB infected badger population ("metabotyping") across Wales.
METHODS: FIE-HRMS was applied on thoracic fluid samples obtained by post-mortem of bTB negative badgers (n = 285) which were part of the Welsh Government 'All Wales Badger Found Dead' study.
RESULTS: Using principal component analysis and partial least squares-discriminant analyses, the major sources of variation were linked to sex, and to a much lesser extent age, as indicated by tooth wear. Within the female population, variation was seen between lactating and non-lactating individuals. No significant variation linked to the presence of bite wounds, obvious lymphatic lesions or geographical region of origin was observed.
CONCLUSION: Future metabolomic work when making comparisons between bTB infected and non-infected badger samples will only need be sex-matched and could focus on males only, to avoid lactation bias.