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  • Skin Test holds Promise for Bovine TB Detection

Skin Test holds Promise for Bovine TB Detection

Aug 08 2019 Read 1443 Times

Aberystwyth scientists have found a possible breakthrough in the worldwide fight against Bovine TB with the development of two skin tests* for cattle that can distinguish between animals that are infected with bovine TB and those that have been vaccinated against it.

The combination of the essential proteins which enable the differentiation between vaccinated cattle and positive cases of bTB was established by the teams of Professor Glyn Hewinson and Professor Martin Vordermeier of Aberystwyth University whilst working at the Animal and Plant Health Agency.

Building on their work, the two skin tests have been created by an international team of scientists from Ethiopia, India, the Netherlands, United Kingdom and the USA.

Developed in the early 1900s from the bacterium that causes TB in cattle, the vaccine has remained largely unused to vaccinate cattle and it is prohibited throughout the European Union, as well as in the United States and many other countries.

By distinguishing between vaccinated and infected cattle, the new tests will facilitate the implementation of vaccination programs globally that could considerably reduce the transmission of this infectious bacterial disease from cattle to humans.

The new test will now have to be evaluated in field trials to a level recommended by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). Further, regulatory issues including demonstrating their safety will also have to be addressed.  Such studies are already under way in the UK and in India.

Professor Hewinson said: “We have worked for over 20 years on developing vaccines and diagnostic tests for bovine tuberculosis.  It would wonderful if either of these tests succeeds in bringing about significant improvements in the control of bovine TB globally.  Such a development would represent the culmination of a great deal of work by dedicated and talented scientists from around the world, and a significant step forward in our efforts to control this disease.

“These tests have been developed as a consequence of elucidating the genetic composition of the bacteria that causes bovine TB and a considerable number of studies on how cattle respond to TB infection and vaccination.  These are areas of investigation that we will continue here at the Centre of Excellence for Bovine TB at Aberystwyth University.” 

The inaugural Centre of Excellence for Bovine TB annual conference will be held at Aberystwyth University on the 17th September 2019. Interested parties can get further details on about the conference and reserve a place by contacting

*Published in Science Advances, July 17

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