April 17, 2024


Study shows BCG vaccination reduces spread of tuberculosis in cattle


New research led by the University of Cambridge and Penn State University revealed the significant impact of BCG vaccination in reducing both the severity and spread of tuberculosis (TB) in cattle, University of Cambridge reported.


The study, published in the journal Science, marks a breakthrough as it demonstrates the vaccine's ability not only to directly protect vaccinated cattle but also to substantially reduce TB transmission, with an estimated 89% decrease in spread among infected animals.


Bovine tuberculosis poses substantial economic costs and health impacts worldwide, with spill over infections from livestock accounting for about 10% of human tuberculosis cases. While primarily associated with gastrointestinal infections from contaminated milk, the disease can also lead to chronic lung infections in humans, presenting challenges in treatment due to antibiotic resistance in cattle bacteria.


Ethiopia served as the primary focus of the study, offering insights into the potential benefits of routine vaccination in a country grappling with a growing burden of bovine tuberculosis and lacking a comprehensive control program.


Andrew Conlan, associate professor of Epidemiology at the University of Cambridge, underscored the vaccination's dual effect of reducing disease progression and minimising infectiousness among vaccinated animals. The findings suggested a path toward curbing disease transmission and ultimately achieving herd-level TB elimination.


Vivek Kapur, professor at Penn State and corresponding author of the study, focused on the importance of vaccination as an alternative to intensive testing and culling programmes, particularly in regions where such measures are economically and socially impractical.


The study's co-lead author, Abebe Fromsa from Addis Ababa University, highlighted the potential benefits of cattle vaccination in low- and middle-income countries where bovine tuberculosis remains largely uncontrolled.


James Wood, professor of Equine and Farm Animal Science at the University of Cambridge, underscored the global significance of the research, noting the economic pressures and persistent challenges posed by TB in countries like the UK, Ireland, and New Zealand.


-      University of Cambridge

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