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Badger TB vaccine 'cuts infection risk in untreated cubs'

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 13, 2012

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New evidence from a four-year field study has shown that vaccination reduces the risk of tuberculosis infection in unvaccinated badger cubs when they are in vaccinated groups.

The research provides the strongest evidence to date that unvaccinated badger cubs can be indirectly protected from bovine TB infection when some of the badgers in their social group are vaccinated. Researchers have shown that the risk of non-vaccinated cubs testing positive was reduced by almost 80% when more than a third of badgers in their group had been vaccinated.

However, with pilot culls of badgers in two South West bovine TB hotspot areas scheduled to take place next summer, farmers say the research does not have any relevance in badger-to-cattle infection.

The data comes from a controlled clinical field trial of badger vaccination, conducted by the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) and the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), in an area in Gloucestershire, where TB is highly prevalent in the badger population. The latest analyses were conducted by a team of scientists at Fera, AHVLA and the Universities of Newcastle and Strathclyde.

Professor Robbie McDonald, author of the paper and now at the University of Exeter, said: "This striking result in cubs shows a protective effect at the social group level and is important evidence that vaccination not only has a direct benefit to vaccinated badgers, but can also reduce the infectivity of TB within a badger social group that has been vaccinated."

But he cautioned: "Although this is an encouraging development, the costs and benefits of vaccinating badgers for controlling disease in cattle are not yet well understood.

"This means that it is a hard choice for farmers to make without further information and trials of how it would work in practice.

"The current Badger Vaccine Deployment Project in Gloucestershire and experience in the Welsh Government's badger vaccine project will help deliver this experience and knowledge."

Andrew Butler, acting regional director of the National Farmers' Union in the South West, commented: "From the summary this research is only looking at the effectiveness of vaccination of badgers.

"Crucially what this study has not done, or any other study into vaccination of badgers to date, is look at the impact of badger vaccination on TB levels in the cattle herd and its cost effectiveness.

"This is vital – and until the industry sees some research that shows significant reductions in the disease in cattle at a reasonable cost, vaccination of badgers will not be a solution to controlling TB in our cattle."

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  • conundrum  |  December 13 2012, 8:55PM

    I hadn't thought about it in terms of big cats. It's almost funny from that point of view and slightly pathetic from another, but the real issue behind it is how normal it's become for much of the media and the government to prop each other up in trying to influence public opinion by distorting information for their mutual benefit. The WMN is, like it's parent paper The Daily Mail, basically a mouthpiece for the Coalition and although there's less obvious foaming-at-the-mouth type journalism, the aims are almost identical, but camouflaged with local detail. The irony is that most members of this government don't really care about or understand the lives of the rank and file farming community, any more than they care about anyone else outside their own narrow world. Rich landowners perhaps, speculators who accumulate farmland for the subsidies, or whoever might be inclined to donate to the party coffers in return for some favourable legislation. All they're really saying is: "Some of you think it's a good idea, so we'll let you shoot badgers, you pay of course, and you take the flak, we're on your side, honestly, so you should be grateful and vote for us next time." It's just a distraction, while the real work of privatisation, asset-stripping, out-sourcing and generally lining their pockets goes on elsewhere. An economic and social smash-and -grab raid before they get voted out and they move on to those lucrative directorships, leaving the rest of us, and that will include ordinary members of the farming community, to cope with the mess.

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  • eyeopener  |  December 13 2012, 6:22PM

    Shame? In your dreams :))

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  • 2ladybugs  |  December 13 2012, 5:29PM

    Yes conundrum but we don't have any "big cats" for them to report on down here and that + badgers is the only thing they can rely on for footfall. I am sure they must get more comments on those two things than any other subject. Mind you the comments on the "big cat" reports are usually only people taking the mickey (that is the polite version). Poor old eyeopener, you have to feel sorry for them, even when there is good news reported IN this newsrag, what do they go on about? SOME OTHER REPORT IN ANOTHER NEWSRAG. Shame.

  • eyeopener  |  December 13 2012, 4:36PM

    @ conundrum Great take on this. You have summed it up perfectly. The pro-cull lobby which today is the grand total of one are fighting it out on the THIS IS GLOUCESTERSHIRE site in an article titled Police spending on badger cull labelled "outrageous". http://tinyurl.com/ceq6u8t Currently ear tag fraud is the issue and it's effect on the spread of Bovine TB!

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  • conundrum  |  December 13 2012, 2:27PM

    Slightly concerned today as I scanned the WMN that they'd failed to include a 'Let's kill the badgers' article.....but I needn't have worried, because here it is, starting on a deceptively optimistic note but only for the first couple of paragraphs after which it reverts to the basic message: ''Err....yes, but killing them is still the only solution.' For the past couple of years the WMN has been running these articles at a rate of between one every three days to one a day, with 36 this August, 48 in September and a real binge of 56 in October. It's calmed down again this month, currently they're only managing about one a day. They must be wearing themselves out trying to find new angles. poor dears.... But what can they be trying to achieve I wonder. Is it that old maxim of Goebbels: 'If you repeat a lie often enough it becomes the truth.' ? It didn't work out too well for him. Anyway, full marks for sheer persistence, and in keeping with the traditional WMN technique for dealing with critical comment, I look forward to this article vanishing by tomorrow, no doubt to be replaced by yet another one, possibly entitled: 'Badgers threaten fragile economic recovery.'

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