In Wales, which had been all set to hold a cull two years ago until it was defeated in a legal battle, a decision was made to opt for vaccination following a report by the Welsh Government’s Bovine TB Science and Review Group. Wales has also introduced additional cattle control measures from 1 April 2013. The project was carried out over an area of 242 sq. km, mostly in north Pembrokeshire, but also in small parts of Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire. In the first year, 1,424 badgers were cage trapped and vaccinated. The Welsh Government plans to expand the project where possible to increase coverage in future years.
Meanwhile, in January, a team of scientists announced a small but important step in the further development of a vaccine to prevent bovine TB in cattle. They have identified a ‘biomarker’ using sophisticated molecular technology, bringing benefits in helping to predict vaccine efficacy. There has also been another recent important scientific development; in December 2012, scientists published a study which showed that vaccinated badgers pass on some immunity to unvaccinated cubs. The study, on Medicalxpress, says vaccination with Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) has already been shown to reduce the severity and progression of experimentally induced TB in captive badgers and a four-year clinical field study among badger social group levels suggested a similar, direct protective effect. Injections reduced by 76% the risk of free-living vaccinated badgers testing positive for progressive infection. Furthermore, the risk of unvaccinated cubs giving positive tests went down significantly as more badgers in each social group were vaccinated. There was an even greater reduction in risk to such cubs - 79% - when more than a third of their social group had been vaccinated.
There is recent information of a project in Ireland to administer badger vaccine orally by mixing it with meatballs and burying them near badger setts. If this proves to be an effective delivery method, it will make badger vaccination very much easier and cheaper.
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