TB vaccination one step closer?

Control of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) using vaccination could be one step closer in the UK, with the development of a test able to distinguish between vaccinated and infected animals.

TB is on the increase in the UK cattle herd, costing more than £90m a year and vaccination is under ‘active consideration’, say the Institute of Animal Health. This would involve using the same vaccination used to immunise humans against the disease, BCG.

However, BCG-vaccinated cattle test positive using the tuberculin skin test. Before a bovine TB vaccination strategy can be implemented, a method of distinguishing between vaccinated and infected animals has to be established. 

The diagnostic test developed relies on the information that immune cells of cattle previously infected with TB contain more of the protein gamma interferon than those vaccinated for TB. The test can provide same day, on farm diagnosis of TB and identify which are vaccinated and which are infected.

Jayne Hope, commented: “The ultimate benefit of accurate diagnosis of disease, in the light of vaccination, would be a reduction in the incidence of TB with associated improvements in animal health and welfare, and the livelihood of farmers.

The development has already attracted the commendation ‘Outstanding Contribution by an Academic or Scientific Institution’, awarded at the Animal Health Awards.