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“Ground-breaking” bovine TB vaccine field trials given the go ahead

Posted: 24 July 2020 | | No comments yet

Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) cattle vaccination trials are set to take place in England and Wales, with the potential to prevent 40,000 cattle from being slaughtered each year, better support farming communities and reduce the need for such rigorous food safety checks.

“Ground-breaking” bovine TB vaccine field trials given the go ahead

“World-leading” bovine tuberculosis (bTB) cattle vaccination trials are set to get underway in England and Wales as a result of a major breakthrough by Government scientists.

The trials are said to enable work to accelerate towards planned deployment of a cattle vaccine by 2025 and total disease eradication by 2038.

bTB is considered one of the most difficult and intractable animal health challenges that England and Wales face today. More than 40,000 cattle are slaughtered each year due to infection from bTB and a cattle vaccine could become a “powerful tool in the battle against the disease” following the necessary testing and subsequent approvals to ensure its safety and efficacy.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has confirmed that there is no risk for humans to contract the disease from consuming bTB infected meat, but the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) says that all meat from cattle killed due to being infected with bTB must have rigorous food safety checks before it is passed as fit for consumption. 

The field trials will be conducted over the next four years on behalf of the Defra, the Welsh Government and the Scottish Government, following 20 years of research into bovine TB vaccines and diagnostic tests.

Environment Secretary, George Eustice, said: “Bovine TB is a slow-moving and insidious disease which can cause considerable trauma for farmers as they suffer the loss of highly prized animals and valued herds.

“This scientific breakthrough is a major step forwards in our battle to see the disease eradicated from this country. As wider preventative measures like cattle vaccines are introduced, we will accelerate other elements of our strategy and start to phase out badger culling in England, as no one wants to continue the cull of a protected species indefinitely.”

The UK Chief Veterinary Officer, Christine Middlemiss, added: “The Animal Plant and Health Agency’s ground-breaking research has been pivotal in developing this potential vaccine. Whilst there is no single way to combat this damaging and complex disease, cattle vaccination is a potential new tool for our multi-pronged approach to tackle it and importantly prevent it, providing vital support to our farming communities.

“Bovine TB presents a global challenge and the UK has harnessed its world-leading science to develop potential solutions such as vaccination and new diagnostic tests that could also be valuable to other countries.”

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