Hints of government action on TB

6 April 2001

Hints of government action on TB

By Isabel Davies

A NEW report on tuberculosis in cattle hints that the government may introduce new measures in a bid to tackle the problem.

The report is the governments response to a document on bovine TB by the House of Commons Agriculture Select Committee.

It says the government is minded to develop a range of options.

“If appropriate these might be tested out possibly on a pilot basis in areas outside the present trials,” says the report.

Such pilot projects would help civil servants gain experience that would help ministers reach a decision on a national TB policy, it adds.

The government report says: “The details of any pilot project would need to be fully explored before it was undertaken.”

First, however, ministers want to work on a TB vaccine accelerated.

The report reveals that the Ministry of Agriculture plans to undertake studies on TB vaccination of cattle and badgers.

It will assess the health, regulatory and safety issues from vaccination, and examine vaccine developments in the Irish Republic.

In response to a request for more work on husbandry practices, the government said it had decided to undertake a pilot project.

The report suggests the pilot will try to categorise farms according to their TB risk status for husbandry purposes.

But in a week when 29 cases of human TB were confirmed in Leicester, the government admitted it was seeking advice on the risk to people.

The Food Standards Agency has asked advisers to review the possible health risks associated with eating meat from infected animals.

A working group set up by the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food hopes to advise the agency this year.

The FSA intends to commission a short study to determine the level of contamination in carcasses and the likely infectious dose for humans.

The government admitted that the foot-and-mouth outbreak had impacted on attempts to eradicate and control bovine TB.

“Some impact on TB work is inevitable in the short term, but it is too early to say precisely what the effect will be,” says the report.

Provisional figures for January to November 2000 show there have been 933 new confirmed incidents of bovine TB in GB cattle herds.

In the first 11 months of 2000, 7666 cattle were slaughtered after TB tests, compared to 6373 in the same period in 1999.

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