Despite reports of a newly developed vaccine, an EU ban on the use of bTB vaccination means the prospect of vaccinating UK cattle against the disease remains a long way off, says DEFRA.

A cattle vaccine for bovine TB could still be five years away according to DEFRA.

The national press was abuzz last week with news that a vaccine and improved differentiation from vaccinated animals test (DIVA) had been developed by the AHVLA.

bTB vaccination of UK cattle could still be 5 years away.However an EU ban on the use of a bTB vaccine means the prospect of vaccinating UK cattle against the disease – even with the new test – remains a long way off.

Trials of a modified form of the human vaccine, mycobacterium bovis Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG), have been held in Mexico and Ethiopia which showed an efficacy of 60%. However, before the vaccine or the test can be licensed by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, the EU will have to lift its ban for UK field trials to be given the green light.

A spokesperson for DEFRA said: “Vaccination is one of our goals to help stop the devastating spread of bovine TB. We are investing £15.5 million in development over the next four years but vaccination is not currently a viable alternative as there remain significant licensing and regulatory barriers before cattle vaccines can be used.

We just don’t know how long it will take, at this stage it is impossible to say with any confidence. Of course we would like it to be a soon as possible but the vaccine and the test need to be trialled in the UK first and the whole process that could take a long time and that could be as long as five years.”

The use of BCG vaccine in cattle sensitises the animals to the skin test used to identify infection, making it all but impossible to tell the difference between a vaccinated animal and an infected animal using previous tests.

Despite the latest developments at the AHVLA, convincing the EU to change its stance and lift the ban is likely to be a slow process.

  • For full article and more reaction, read this week’s Veterinary Times (Vol.42, No.42)
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