September 4, 2013
UK to implement field trials for cattle vaccine against bovine TB
From as early as 2014, field trials for a cattle vaccine and associated DIVA test in the UK will be carried out to eradicate bovine Tuberculosis (TB).
This was announced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) who is seeking a partner to carry out the trials as part of government plans.
DEFRA placed an advertisement in the journal Veterinary Record this week which announces that governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have developed a Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine against bovine TB.
An accompanying diagnostic tool to differentiate infected livestock from vaccinated animals, known as a "DIVA test", is also ready, the advertisement stated.
However, to provide "additional data" for the licensing of the vaccine and DIVA as a trade test, "further data is needed on the performance of the vaccine and DIVA test under UK field conditions".
"By agreement with the European Commission, a delivery partner is sought to conduct robust scientific field trials of the vaccine and accompanying DIVA test. The field trials will need to be carried out in accordance with good clinical practice (veterinary) and animal test certificate guidelines," the advertisment added.
Work is under way to define the scope and scale of these trials, which DEFRA expects to begin from 2014 and take place mainly in England and Wales, over a period of two to five years.
Draft protocols for the trial would be made available before they begin. The trials will be expected to provide validation data to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) standards on the sensitivity and specificity of the DIVA test; measure the effectiveness of vaccination under UK field conditions; provide further data on the safety of the vaccine; provide information on the practicalities of using BCG cattle vaccine once in the field; and collect economic and social science data on cattle vaccination.
"The trial is needed to prove that the cattle vaccine being developed is effective in large-scale field conditions," a DEFRA spokesman said.
Two supplier days - one in London on September 24, and another in Cardiff on September 30 - are being held to "provide a forum for potential suppliers of all sizes".
Vaccinating cattle against TB is prohibited under EU law as BCG can interfere with the tuberculin skin test and give "false positives", thus making it impossible to distinguish between sick and healthy cows.
The European Commission has suggested a cattle vaccine and DIVA test will not be commercially available before 2023. Field trials of a cattle vaccine in Ethiopia and New Zealand have shown it can protect around 60% of cattle from TB infection.
Professor Glyn Hewinson, chief scientist of Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency, said that a cattle vaccine would be "no magic wand" to wipe out bovine TB in the UK. However, when used in conjunction with existing controls measures, it could offer farmers an important tool to help prevent TB infection in their herds.
DEFRA secretary Owen Paterson said a badger cull, which is under way in the South West, is necessary while the wait for a workable cattle vaccine continues.