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(Apologies to ProMed for copying almost an entire page - but this will be of great interest to many - who might otherwise find some difficulty in tracking down the information),F2400_P1001_PUB_MAIL_ID:1000,33313
A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases

Date: Thu 22 Jun 2006
From: ProMED-mail<>
Source: BBC [edited]

A one-million-pound [USD 1.8 million] field trial of a vaccine to
combat tuberculosis in badgers has been launched by the government.
The trials in Gloucestershire could lead to more than 100 000 badgers
being vaccinated nationwide.

Badgers can carry bovine tuberculosis which they catch from cattle
and other badgers before spreading it to herds. Last year 24 000 cows
infected with TB were put down and the cost of compensating farmers
and testing for the disease was 92 million GBP [USD 168 million].

The Central Science Laboratory trials involve catching about 250
badgers in baited traps in the county where the disease is a major
problem. The animals will be taken back to the laboratory where they
will be injected with the vaccine before being returned to their home
set. The initial stages of the trial aim to find out if the vaccine
is safe for badgers and humans and whether it is effective against
the disease. It will take at least 5 years before the vaccine could
be administered to the general badger population outside the lab
through microcapsules mixed with peanuts.

Dr John Cheeseman, who is leading the project, said: "If vaccination
of badgers worked, you would save the lives of badgers, you would
save the disruptive effect of culling, and it would save cattle and
taxpayers' money, which is the fundamental problem."

Farmers, who cannot interfere with sets on their land because badgers
are protected by law, have called on the government for a cull of the
animals to protect their herds. New cases of TB in cattle are rising
at a rate of between 10 and 20 percent a year. Earlier in 2006, MPs
on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee
criticised a government consultation project on a badger cull for
considering a targeted approach when scientific evidence showed only
extensive action would cut TB levels in cattle.


[Since the turn of the 21st century, bovine tuberculosis has spread
and spread in the UK, aided by the 2001 FMD epidemic which reduced
the necessary funding for control and personnel allotment while the
UK government awaited the results of a badger culling experiment. The
Randomised Badger Culling Trials demonstrated that if you do not
achieve culling targets above 60 percent (and sometimes these were no
more than 20 percent), you will only make matters worse -- because of
so called 'perturbation'. Incomplete badger culling can actually
exacerbate the problem by the perturbation or fringe effect whereby
inefficient culling disturbs and disperses infected badgers over a
wider area. Prior to 1998 the 3 English culling trials at Thornbury,
Steeple Leaze and Hartland Point and the large Irish trial in East
Offaly achieved culling targets of over 80 percent and produced a
profound and sustained reduction in bovine TB in associated cattle
herds. During the subsequent 8 years of the Randomised Badger Culling
Trials saw a significant increase in the numbers of TB-reactor cattle
slaughtered from 5000 cattle slaughtered as reactors in 1998 to over
25 500 slaughtered in 2005.

Bovine TB was practically eradicated in the UK by 1986 by proactive
badger culling along with tuberculin testing of cattle when only 84
herd breakdowns were recorded in that year. But in 1982 doubts had
been raised about the welfare aspects of the gassing method used and
culling was modified first to a clean ring trapping policy and then
to limited on-farm reactive culling. And from 1997, except for the
RBCTs, culling was abandoned altogether. Since then the incidence in
cattle has taken off and is now increasing 18-20 percent year on year
and, as the UK Government acknowledges in their report of 2004, if
the present policy of inaction continues there is no way but up! In
enzootically infected areas at least a quarter of badgers carry the
disease (26 percent in 1998, when figures were last available).
Highly susceptible cattle simply act as sentinels for the disease in
badgers. Thus killing more and more cattle will not and cannot solve
the problem.

Much of the problem associated with bovine TB in UK and Ireland is
because the badger -- a species without natural predators and
protected by law since 1973 -- is now a classic example of a
population out of control through lack of management. The population
has probably increased 10-20 fold in the last decade and, apart from
being a potential reservoir of a serious zoonotic disease, the animal
has now become a major agricultural pest across the country from a)
the damage that it does by digging and, b) from its predation on
ground nesting birds, hedgehogs, and newborn lambs. Furthermore it is
probable that the substantial increase in numbers of badgers over the
last decade will have contributed in part to the perturbation problem
in high-density areas. The badger is not an endangered species and no
longer merits its protected status. Culling, when done efficiently,
i.e. when delineated areas are free of badgers for at least 12
months, has an immediate disease control benefit. In the UK there is
a stark dichotomy between the demands for culling by the farming
community, including wildlife veterinarians, and the extreme
reluctance on the part of the government. We have yet to see what the
impact of badger vaccination will be. - Mod.MHJ]





































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