21 April 1998
MAFF research budget targets badgers, E Coli

By FWi staff

SCIENTISTS have been invited to apply for Government contracts in a hasty bid to find a vaccine to protect cattle against tuberculosis.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food announced yesterday that research into bovine tuberculosis and E.Coli 0157 would form the major “plank” of its research budget for 1999-2000. The department spends £129 million on research each year.

Leading scientists will be offered contracts to discover what causes TB outbreaks in cattle and badgers, and asked to develop improved strategies to reduce the number of outbreaks and produce a vaccine to protect cattle against the disease.

According to MAFF, the announcement covers the recommendations made by Professor John Krebs, who presented a detailed report on bovine TB in cattle and badgers to Ministers in December 1997.

Jeff Rooker, food safety minister, said: “The research projects announced today will aim to develop more sensitive diagnostic tests for TB using modern technology. More importantly, scientists will start work on developing a vaccine to protect cattle against the disease.

“If successful, this research could, in the long term, allow the control of bovine tuberculosis without the need to cull either cattle, or badgers,” he said.

MAFFs other major research project for 1999-2000 is E.Coli O157. Scientists will be invited to submit tenders for new research work in areas ranging from salmonella and campylobacter, on-farm welfare of poultry and ruminants.

Mr Rooker said: “Within this broad programme we intend to find out more about how E.Coli O157 behaves on farms and identify the critical control points to help prevent the bug being transmitted from animals into the food chain.

“In addition to carrying out new research projects that will protect the public from E.Coli, salmonella and campylobacter, this work will broaden our knowledge of animal diseases like bovine TB. The new projects will complement on-going research into animal diseases such as rabies and brucella.

“All farm animals should be treated with care and dignity. The new research will also look at the welfare of animals during handling, transport and slaughter, and how they are treated on farms,” he added.