In February 2023 the UK Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) announced that field trials for a cattle vaccine against bovine tuberculosis (bTB) were moving to the second phase. This phase will assess the safety of the CattleBCG vaccine and the safety and performance of the Detect Infected among Vaccinated Animals (DIVA) skin test for vaccinated cattle. APHA hopes that, provided this phase is successful, “we will be closer to being able to vaccinate cattle against this endemic disease”.
Bovine tuberculosis is described by APHA as “one of the most difficult and intractable animal health challenges” that the UK faces. It cost English taxpayers “around £100 million” every year, and more than 38,000 cattle in England and Wales were slaughtered in 2021 in attempts to address the disease.
Phases one and two
APHA reports that laboratory studies have indicated that the vaccine and DIVA skin test are safe and the test “performs well” in “controlled APHA facility environments”. Thus, the trials have expanded to commercial livestock farms across the country to be completed in 2023.
APHA began Phase I of trials in July 2021. This focused on the safety and performance of the skin test in unvaccinated animals over 10 farms with 524 participating animals. Phase II will involve at least 5 farms with 600 animals participating.
A significant milestone
Dr Phil Hogarth, APHA’s lead TB scientist, is “pleased” to see this progress.
“This next step represents a significant milestone, building upon many years of research, and APHA will continue to be led by science.”
A joint statement from Chief Veterinary Officers across the United Kingdom described bovine TB as “one of the most difficult animal disease challenges” of today.
“If this next phase is successful, this project takes us one step closer to a vaccine to be used in conjunction with other measures to tackle this insidious disease.”