Researchers at the University of Queensland are pursuing an experimental vaccine to tackle a venereal disease that “causes cattle infertility and costs the industry hundreds of millions of dollars”. Bovine trichomoniasis protozoa vaccines are available in other countries but not Australia.  

A survey 

The vaccine research was driven by results of a survey for the disease led by Professor Michael McGowan of the University of Queensland School of Veterinary Science. This revealed that bulls at abattoirs in all of the country’s major beef breeding regions, and “more than one in ten bulls in northern regions” were infected.  

In North Australian beef herds, losses from confirmed pregnancy to weaning are believed to be between 5 and 15%, costing the industry up to $100 million a year. Although the disease is not the sole reason for these losses, it is “likely to be contributing to this reproductive inefficiency”.  

Professor Ala Tabor from the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation said that “bovine trichomoniasis is caused by a protozoa carried by bulls and is transmitted to females during mating”.  

“This can make cows infertile or cause them to abort.”  

International vaccines 

Although vaccines are available in other countries, Professor Tabor thinks it is “more efficient and practical to manufacture the vaccine in Australia”.  

“When you import a vaccine, it has to be quarantined and the animals treated with it aren’t allowed into the food chain”.  

Thus, getting “local strains” to develop a vaccine is “effective, safer, and easier”. A candidate vaccine was tested successfully in a small group of bulls, with further trials anticipated through collaboration with Meat and Livestock Australia and commercial partners.  

For more on developing effective vaccines to protect and support livestock management at the World Vaccine Congress in Washington this April, get your tickets here. You can read about bovine vaccine pursuits for the UK here.