A BOVINE TB vaccine has moved a step closer.
The Animal and Plant Agency (APHA) has announced field trials for a cattle vaccine and new skin test for bovine tuberculosis (bTB) will continue.
A spokesperson said if the second phase is successful, experts will be closer to being able to vaccinate cattle against the disease.
Eventually, it is hoped the combination of CattleBCG vaccine and the Detect Infected among Vaccinated Animals (DIVA) skin test will be deployable in the next few years.
The second phase of the field trials will assess the safety of the CattleBCG vaccine and the safety and performance of the DIVA skin test in vaccinated cattle.
So far, laboratory studies have indicated that the vaccine and DIVA skin test are safe and that the test performs well, under controlled APHA facility environments.
The field trials are taking place on commercial livestock farms across the country and are due to be completed in 2023.
Phase 2 will involve at least five farms with 600 animals participating, 300 of which will be vaccinated with CattleBCG, while the remaining half will receive a placebo.
In July 2021, APHA began Phase 1 of trials in England, which focused on the safety and performance of the DIVA skin test in unvaccinated animals. Performed on 10 farms with 524 participating animals, Phase 1 was completed in May 2022 and analysis of the results is in progress.
Dr Phil Hogarth, APHA’s lead scientist for TB, said: “I am pleased that we have progressed to the next phase of the field trials for a cattle vaccine and DIVA skin test for bovine tuberculosis.
“This next step represents a significant milestone, building upon many years of research, and APHA will continue to be led by science, and work tirelessly in the fight to eradicate this disease.”
In a joint statement the Chief Veterinary Officers from England, Scotland and Wales said: “Bovine TB represents one of the most difficult animal disease challenges the world faces today.
“We are making substantial progress in developing an additional tool to help eradicate this disease with the new cattle vaccine and DIVA skin test – and are very grateful to the vets and farmers taking part for their efforts in making this work on the ground.
“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 which impacts livestock farmers across the globe.”
Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) costs taxpayers in England around £100 million each year. More than 38,000 cattle in England and Wales were slaughtered in 2021 to tackle the disease.