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Diagnostic Test Enhances Control of Bovine Tuberculosis by Vaccination 08/11/07

Dr Jayne Hope and colleagues at the Institute for Animal Health's Compton Laboratory have developed a test that can distinguish cattle that have been vaccinated against bovine tuberculosis (TB) from those that had been infected by the causative agent, the bacterium Mycobacterium bovis.

© www.jennifermackenzie.co.uk

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Bovine TB in UK cattle herds, caused by infection with M. bovis, costs approximately £90 million annually, with risks to animal and human health. Vaccination of cattle against TB using the BCG vaccine is under active consideration. BCG is the vaccine used to immunise people against TB.

BCG-vaccinated cattle test positive using the tuberculin skin test. Therefore, an essential part of any bovine TB vaccination strategy is being able to distinguish vaccinated cattle from infected ones.

Research by Dr Jayne Hope and her colleagues Dr Chris Howard and Paul Sopp showed that immune system cells of cattle that had previously been infected by M. bovis had far more of a protein called gamma interferon than did TB-vaccinated ones. This discovery has led Dr Hope to develop a rapid diagnostic test that could allow same day, on farm, diagnosis of TB and differentiation from vaccinated animals. Commercialisation of this test is being investigated.

Dr Hope said: "The ultimate benefit of accurate diagnosis of disease, in the light of vaccination, would be a reduction in the incidence of bovine TB with associated improvements in animal health and welfare, and livelihood of farmers. By reducing the incidence of TB in the UK there would be improved economic competitiveness in the farming industry."

In recognition of the research that led to this development, Dr Hope recently received an award at the annual Animal Health Awards organised by Animal Pharm in London. Jayne and her team were winners in the "Outstanding Contribution by an Academic or Scientific Institution" category.

The research was funded by the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

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