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Bovine TB vaccine field trials a major breakthrough in long-term plan to eradicate the disease – Lesley Griffiths

Written by on 22nd July 2020

World-leading bovine tuberculosis TB cattle vaccination trials set to get underway hails a major breakthrough in the long-term plan to eradicate this devastating animal disease, Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths said today.

The trials, which will take place in Wales and England, will enable work to accelerate towards planned deployment of a cattle vaccine by 2025. 

TB is one of the most complex and difficult animal health challenges Wales and England face today. In Wales alone, more than 12,000 cattle were slaughtered in 2019 due to TB. An effective cattle vaccine has the potential to become a powerful tool in the battle against the disease following the necessary testing and safety and efficiency approvals.

The field trials will be conducted over the next four years on behalf of the Welsh Government, the Scottish Government and Defra, following 20 years of ground-breaking research into bovine TB vaccines and diagnostic tests by government scientists. Professor Glyn Hewinson, now Ser Cymru Chair at the TB Centre of Excellence at the University of Aberystwyth continues to play a key role in this important work.

The Minister said:  “TB eradication is a priority for Wales, we have been building our programme for over 10 years and we have always seen cattle vaccination as an important tool, which is as yet, unexploited. 

“Over the last 10 years we have seen a reduction in the number of TB incidents of 44%, and are working towards TB freedom by 2041, cattle vaccination could help us achieve that.”

Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales, Christianne Glossop, said: “Bovine TB is the biggest animal health challenge we face. It causes significant trauma to our farmers and rural communities.

“We have always recognised vaccination could play a key role in TB eradication. Thanks to years of ground-breaking research by the Animal and Plant Health Agency, along with Professor Hewinson, these new trials may provide us with another tool in our fight to stamp out this damaging disease.”

British Veterinary Association Junior Vice President James Russell said: “The deployment of a viable cattle vaccine used in combination with a validated DIVA test has the potential to be an absolute game changer in our efforts to control and eradicate bovine tuberculosis, and is something that our own expert bTB working group’s upcoming report has identified as a key priority.

“These field trials mark the culmination of years of ground-breaking research and efforts by the veterinary scientific community to expand the range of tools available to vets and farmers to tackle bovine tuberculosis.”

Latest statistics on TB In Wales, the overall number of new herd incidents of the disease is down by 13% in the last year (12 months to April 2020), a 9% reduction in the number of herds not officially free of the disease and a 5% reduction in the total number of animals slaughtered due to the disease. Full details of these statistics are available here.