SCOTS scientists have identified genetic traits in cattle that could enable farmers to breed livestock with increased resistance to bovine tuberculosis (TB) - a disease which leads to the deaths of millions of cattle and can infect humans.

Research, led by the University of Edinburgh's Roslin Institute, compared the genetic code of TB-infected animals with that of disease-free cattle, and found a number of "genetic signatures" associated with TB resistance in the healthy ones.

The study builds on previous research, which showed some cattle might be more resistant to bovine TB as a result of their genetic make-up. Scientists at the centre say the latest finding sheds further light on whether it might be possible to improve TB control through selective breeding.

Bovine TB, caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium bovis, not only infects cattle, but other livestock and wildlife. It also remains a risk to humans, particularly in the developing world.

Despite intensive efforts, bovine TB continues to have a serious impact on livestock, affecting farm profitability and animal welfare. In 2010/2011, it cost the UK Government £152 million.

Professor Liz Glass, lead researcher for the study, said: "If we can choose animals with better genotypes for TB resistance, then we can apply this information in new breeding programmes alongside other control strategies.

"It is hoped that can help us to more effectively control TB in cattle."