HomeManagementBadger ManagementThomas and McDairmid Letter in the Veterinary Record in 2003

Thomas and McDairmid Letter in the Veterinary Record in 2003

Bovine TB and Badgers Consultation
Thomas and McDairmid Letter in the Veterinary Record in 2003 provides valuable and authoritive advice which has stood the test of time in refuting emphasis on cattle to cattle transmission and availability of vaccine

The Editor
Veterinary Record
7 Mansfield  Street

11th December 2003

Dear Editor

We perceive that the accepted wisdom on the epidemiology of bovine tuberculosis is being moulded not entirely by scientific fact but also by political expediency. A heavy emphasis is increasingly being put on cattle to cattle transmission of the disease (Vet Rec. August 3, 2002, p130, and more recently In Practice Nov/Dec 2003, p.606). But the implication that spread of the disease can be controlled merely by more rigorous testing of cattle seems to us to be dangerously naïve. As long as there is a substantial badger population at large, of which 20% or more, in some areas, may be infected with Mycobacterium bovis and many excreting some 300,000 tubercle bacilli per ml of urine (equivalent to an infective oral dose for cattle) into the agricultural environment, it does not require a very large leap of common sense to realise from where the major source of infection for cattle, badgers and other farm and wild life species may come from.

We are also worried at the shift in emphasis to other possible wild life reservoirs (caption to picture Off the Record, November 2003). There is little doubt that the disease has now spread to other species in particular fallow deer in the New Forest, which is a worrying development but as we warned in our letter over 3 years ago (Vet Rec. April 22, 2000) a spill over into other species is inevitable so long as the high level of endemic infection in the badger population remains.

Finally we caution against over optimism on the vaccine front. Ten years to a vaccine might be a realistic estimate given a proven candidate vaccine for development but as Dr.Glyn Hewinson indicated at a meeting in April this year (Vet Rec. May 17, 2003) in spite of screening some 2-300 alternative vaccines to BCG no suitable candidate vaccine has emerged to date and before it does we regard any time estimate as extremely premature. And note that the vaccine, if and when it comes, will be for cattle. It will do nothing for endemic TB in badgers. The recent statement from the ISG on Identifying research needs for TB vaccines (Vet Rec. December 20/27, 2003), published since this letter was written, would appear to endorse the current research position indicated by Dr.Hewinson above.

Yours faithfully,

Lewis H. Thomas  -  Archie McDairmid

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