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Cattle vaccination

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A cattle vaccine has the potential to make an important contribution to the eradication of bovine TB in the future.

No single control measure will eradicate this complex disease but vaccines can contribute to the control of bovine TB. In the future we hope that a cattle TB vaccine can be used to help protect the cattle population. As with many other disease control strategies, it is a combination of measures that is most likely to be successful.

Vaccine development

Developing an effective cattle vaccine is one of our highest priorities. There has been, and continues to be, a lot of investment in its research and development. BCG (Mycobacterium bovis Bacille Calmette-Guérin) is considered the most suitable vaccine. Field studies have shown that it can reduce the spread of the disease between cattle. BCG in cattle, as with BCG in other species, is not 100% effective in preventing TB. The vaccination of cattle against TB is not currently allowed under European law. The vaccine will also need to be licenced for use in the UK.

Distinguish between Infected and Vaccinated Animals (DIVA) test

Cattle injected with a BCG-based vaccine are likely to react to the skin test which is the primary diagnostic test we use to establish if a herd is TB free. Under the current rules, cattle that react to the skin test have to be slaughtered or re-tested and their herds of origin lose their officially TB free status. Herd TB freedom is needed for herds to trade live cattle and cattle products and so vaccine use would lead to trade restrictions on herds that may not be infected.

Research has led to the development of a new test to overcome these problems. The DIVA test has been developed to distinguish between infected and vaccinated animals. Changes will be required to European law to allow the DIVA test to be used in place of, or alongside, the skin test. In preparation for any changes, we have started to consider a cattle vaccination strategy for Wales. We are also planning field studies to evaluate BCG vaccination of cattle.

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