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Public should help vaccinate badgers, says Cornish MP

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 01, 2012

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A Cornish MP has called on the support of farmers and wildlife experts for a badger vaccination programme to bear down on the problem of bovine TB outbreaks in local cattle herds.

Speaking a week after the Government suspended plans for a controversial cull, Andrew George, urged immediate "collective action" rather than waiting for action from Westminster.

"The most useful thing that we can now do is to galvanise the support of the local community," said the St Ives Lib Dem MP.

"Many are up in arms at the idea of culling badgers, and (we should) ask them to offer their voluntary support in a vaccination programme across West Cornwall.

"Some local landowners have already commenced a vaccination programme on their own land, so there is gathering experience."

The initiative won the immediate support of the Badger Trust, which campaigns on behalf of the welfare of the animals and has been vehemently against the proposed cull.

A spokesman said they support a vaccination programme "to the hilt".

"It is something we are very much in favour of," said the spokesman. "People say it will cost a lot of money, but it would cost a lot of money to cage, trap and shoot badgers.

"Vaccination is a much better way forward," he said, adding that the cull would be as much as 10 times more expensive than effective vaccination.

The Government last week announced that its controversial scheme for pilot badger culls in Somerset and Gloucester was being put on hold till next year amid predictions that the job could not be done on time.

However, a cull will still go ahead next summer, as soon as the badger breeding season is over, the Government has pledged.

Mr George said there was an alternative, which should be explored.

West Cornwall has been identified as the origin of the growth of bovine TB across the British cattle herd. The disease is still most prevalent in the west of the country.

The MP said he had supported the previous government's trial which included the proactive culling of badgers over a decade ago and expressed doubts as to whether the Government would actually be able to proceed with their proposed badger cull next year.

Mr George added that he was "not persuaded" there is sufficient scientific evidence that it will be effective and feared that the Government's approach may only make the situation worse.

Farmers have dismissed ideas that a vaccine against bovine TB could be rolled out quickly and have maintained that claims of a major breakthrough in combating bovine TB are not realistic in time-scale – and that a vaccine is far from totally reliable.

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  • Charlespk  |  November 03 2012, 12:33PM

    Question: "Why don't farmers and landowners take the initiative themselves to find out whether they can get badgers on their land vaccinated agains bTB at no or reduced cost?" Answer: Because they take sound advice. An open letter from the Swiss Vet, Dr. Ueli Zellweger, sent to warmwell.com July 21 2009. "DEFRA and its TB Vaccine for Badgers and Cattle. The vaccine is called BCG which stands for Bacille CalmetteGuérin. This strain of bovine TB bacteria was found 88 years ago and has been the main one reproduced for vaccination ever since. It is common practice to cultivate virus and bacteria for a long time for after some 10 to 20 generations they tend to lose their power to infect but still may produce specific antibodies. BCG is rather an uncommon type of vaccine. In most infections the infected body copes with production of a large amount of specific antibodies within a few days which protect against an infection becoming serious trouble and these antibodies can be traced for diagnosis. This is not so with Tuberculosis for 2 reasons: 1. TB bacteria need 12 to 18 hours to multiply ( E. Coli takes 20 minutes only). 2. TB bacteria have a waxy coat - quite unusual in microbes - to which antibodies cannot attach themselves. Therefore the body' s defence against TB has to work by making an allergic type of reaction instead of antibodies, a reaction which is made use of when humans and cattle are skin tested for TB. In the past BCG was used for millions of doses for healthy young babies and in some countries it is still administered to a certain extent. It does not prevent an infection but minimizes the risk of it turning into a serious generalised form. BCG' s efficiency was never over 80% and new scientific papers say it is dubious to rely on it. The way BCG should work in already diseased badgers (and cattle) is highly questionable, meaning it is much more likely to produce adverse reactions such as awaking existing "silent" or low scale Tuberculosis. The Merck Veterinary Manual covering all aspects of Vet Medicine worldwide comments: "The BCG vaccine, sometimes used to control TB in man, has proved to be poor at protecting most animal species, and inoculation often provokes a severe local granulomatous reaction." This is likely to be a quite hurtful process and the vaccination site itself might well end up as an abscess. As seen in trials, one cannot trap more than 60% of all badgers roaming around. Therefore if 60 out of 100 badgers are vaccinated with a vaccine which is only efficient to a maximum of 50 - 80% (in healthy animals!) you end up with far less than 50 badgers with a rather dubious protection. It is well known and common practice that if you do not succeed to vaccinate up to 95% of all animals of a target species, the long term positive effects in an area are likely to be pretty close to zero. . If BCG is used as planned by DEFRA there will be huge perturbation and stress for all badgers, high costs and risk that the whole project will backfire. In the hot spots some 50 % or more of all badgers might carry the TB infection already increasing the risk of TB spreading when being vaccinated and according to DEFRAs plans all badgers should get a booster vaccination every 12 months making things even worse. Who will be liable when it all goes wrong?" Dr Ueli Zellweger MRCVS GST TVL Somerset

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  • Clued-Up  |  November 03 2012, 11:07AM

    A very sensible approach by the MP. As readers will know, many badger vaccination projects are already underway, the cost of vaccination has been brought down and some animal / wildlife charities have have "pots of money" to allocate to new projects. Why don't farmers and landowners take the initiative themselves to find out whether they can get badgers on their land vaccinated agains bTB at no or reduced cost? It doesn't take much effort to contact the RSPCA, Badger Trust or any of the other organisations which might help them.

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  • Charlespk  |  November 02 2012, 9:43AM

    The longest provable and verifiable 'TEST' or 'TRIAL' was made between 1950 and 1984. By the early 1980s bTB was almost eradicated from the UK. Only 100 new outbreaks were being recorded and in 1984 only 400 reactor cattle were slaughtered. If the thesis that badgerists keep putting forward was even REMOTELY correct, there would have been many thousands of cattle out there dying miserably deaths and clinically sick with tuberculosis, just as there are badgers now. THERE WERE NOT. THERE ARE NOT AND THERE NEVER HAVE BEEN. Cattle are tested and slaughtered if they react. . . Badgers just keep incubating and spreading the disease multiplying whilst still dying miserable deaths in their thousands.

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  • Charlespk  |  November 02 2012, 9:19AM

    It's peoples total lack of understanding of how this genus has evolved, moved, developed and does now move between and amongst all mammalian species that we have this problem. The genus has 4000+ genes (virtually all types) 75% of which are believed to have evolved simply to evade any hosts immune responses, which is why it is so successful. There is less than 0.05% difference between genetic make up of M.tuberculosis and M.bovis. That why Jean Antoine Villemin was eventually able to subculture M.bovis to make the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin BCG vacine for humans 90 years ago. http://tinyurl.com/8a7bwy9

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  • Charlespk  |  November 02 2012, 9:05AM

    THE PREVALENCE AND DISTRIBUTION OF MYCOBACTERIUM BOVIS INFECTION IN BADGERS. The prevalence and distribution of Mycobacterium bovis infection in European badgers (Meles meles) as determined by enhanced post mortem examination and bacteriological culture. Res Vet Sci. 2009 Jun 20; Authors: Murphy D, Gormley E, Costello E, O'Meara D, Corner LA The accurate diagnosis of Mycobacterium bovis infection in badgers is key to understanding the epidemiology of tuberculosis in this species and has significant implications for devising strategies to limit spread of the disease. In this study, badgers (n=215) in the Republic of Ireland were examined at post mortem and tissues were collected from a range of anatomical locations and pooled into groups for bacterial culture of M. bovis. By assessing confirmed gross visible lesions (VL) alone, infection was detected in 12.1% of badgers. However, by including the results of all culture positive pooled samples, the overall infection prevalence increased significantly to 36.3%. Two-thirds (66.7%) of infected animals had no visible lesions (NVL). While the thoracic cavity (lungs and pulmonary lymph nodes) was found to be the most common site of infection, in a proportion of animals infection was absent from the lungs and draining lymph nodes and was confined to the lymph nodes of the carcase or the head. This may indicate an early extrapulmonary dissemination of infection or alternatively, in the case of the head lymph nodes, a secondary pathogenic pathway involving the lymphoid tissues of the upper respiratory tract (URT). The net is rapidly closing

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  • Charlespk  |  November 02 2012, 8:25AM

    Why BCG does not perform like other Vaccines. In any normal infection the body defence works by production of vast amounts of antibodies. Such antibodies can also be stimulated by ordinary vaccines for all kinds of bacteria and virus diseases and they can be traced in blood which makes diagnosis with various techniques fairly easy. But this does not work for Tuberculosis - it never did and it never will do - because the tubercle bacteria have a waxy coat to which antibodies cannot attach. Tuberculosis therefore causes a so called humoral body defence; that means the very slowly multiplying bacteria are attacked by enzymes and white blood cells mainly. These are killing or even digesting the bacteria by a method called phagocytosis resulting in crumbly pus in the so called tubercles - whole heaps or lumps containing several 1000 to billions of bacteria. This defence is much more unspecific and slower than the usual one by antibodies. Any BCG vaccine stimulates this humoral defence only but never prevents an infection; it may keep it on a low scale maybe. There is no other vaccine available and there most probably will never be another one. . No matter how many millions more DEFRA invests (I hear of some 30 so far for the Vaccine only) this is nature - which cannot be forced by politics. Dr Ueli Zellweger MRCVS GST TVL Somerset

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  • Charlespk  |  November 01 2012, 10:41AM

    Andrew George very obviously has no understanding of either the problems, the disease, or the now 90 year old and failing BCG vaccine, that is now only really useful for young children. I believe Brian May would be better employed using his great wealth and influence getting BCG vaccination programs established for the children and deprived populations of the Third World. . The BCG is now a failing vaccine. . Using it on badgers and just contributing to the reduction in its efficacy whilst there are human populations still in desperate need, is both crass and insensitive. . Close to two million human beings are dying each year from tuberculosis although WHO say the number is reducing despite the marked increase in MDR and XDR stains of the disease. The science of Mycobacterium bovis and the difficulties of control of the whole Mycobacterium genus is now well understood by scientists around the world. . What these last devastating years for our farmers have shown is that the Badger Trust and their followers are determined to keep the infected badger population growing exponentially without any concern for the effect on the human population or any other animals. . The badger (and cattle) vaccination program is based on 90 year old BCG science that is no longer even accepted as really useful for humans, let alone animals. . The only real advance in TB treatment in recent times has been the discovery of enzymes that will increase detection rates in Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and the discovery of enzymes that can also increase the efficacy of currently used anti-biotics. . The particular Mycobacterium that cause TB are all very slow growing and insidious, and notoriously difficult to stop reproducing, let alone kill. . Some of the best work being done at the moment is by scientists using phage therapy. . That is over 60year old Russian science that uses bacteriophages; viruses that can attack and kill the TB bacterium. The thing the badger groups just will not accept and now even deny with sophistry and distortion, is the fact that we once conquered this problem by clearing badger setts in the locality of herds and culling all and any reactor cattle. . The 'clean ring strategy'. The national herd was clear of disease and all herds in the UK were officially designated 'Brucellosis Free' in October 1985. . That is 'all such pathogens'. With the discovery of Streptomycin and other antibiotics and drugs; we thought we had beaten tuberculosis and all the sanatoriums had long been closed. . . Then some in their mistaken wisdom decided the risk from badgers was by then minimal. . With the explosion in the badger population, we can all now see just how 'minimal' that was. The gassing of badgers ceased in the late 1970s and testing of cattle continued. In 1986, a total of 38,000 herds comprising 3,200,000 cattle were tested, resulting in the slaughter of just 506 cattle that reacted to the test. . The latest position with over 30,000 being slaughtered is neither acceptable or sustainable. . The Badger Trust and all their followers apparently now believe we can just let this situation continue until some one comes up with a new effective vaccine for cattle and wildlife. . That may never happen. The only way we will ever have a clean badger population again is if we first close down all the infected setts.

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