Bovine Tuberculosis: Disease Control

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 14th July 2021.

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Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what progress his Department has made on vaccinating cattle against bovine TB.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

In a world first, field trials for a cattle vaccine and new skin test for bovine tuberculosis (bTB) have now begun in England.

If the field trials are successful, farmers and vets will move a step closer to being able to vaccinate their animals against the disease, helping to save thousands of cattle every year that would have otherwise have been culled to prevent the spread of bTB to other herds. The skin test which will accompany the vaccine will also represent a major breakthrough by enabling vets to identify cattle that have been vaccinated and those that are infected with the disease – to date this has not been possible. bTB is the most difficult and intractable animal health challenge that we face today and costs taxpayers around £100 million every year. Over 36,000 cattle in England and Wales have had to be slaughtered in the last year to tackle the disease and the UK is leading the way in the development of a cattle vaccine with the aim of rolling it out by 2025.

In December 2020, the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) – which has over 500 staff involved in tackling the disease – awarded a contract to Eville & Jones to run clinical field trials in cattle as a result of a culmination of over 20 years of ground-breaking research at the agency. Details can be found at:

A bTB-free farm in Hertfordshire has commenced the first phase of these trials to determine the safety and accuracy of the DIVA skin test, with further herds across England and Wales to join them over the coming months.

In the event that these first trials are successful, the study will then be expanded to more farms in England and Wales as part of its second phase, to test both the Cattle Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) vaccine and a diagnostic test to detect infected animals amongst vaccinated animals (DIVA) skin test together.

This will allow us to generate sufficient evidence to support a Market Authorisation application to the Veterinary Medicines Directorate to use both products in the UK.

More information about the bTB cattle vaccination programme can be found at:

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