Field trials for a cattle vaccine and new skin test for bovine tuberculosis (bTB) have moved to a second phase after studies to date have shown that they are safe and performing well.

If this second phase is successful, it brings closer the ability to vaccinate cattle against the disease.

It is hoped that the combination of CattleBCG vaccine and the Detect Infected among Vaccinated Animals (DIVA) skin test will be deployable in the next few years.

The second phase of the field trials will assess the safety of the CattleBCG vaccine and the safety and performance of the DIVA skin test in vaccinated cattle.

So far, laboratory studies have indicated that the vaccine and DIVA skin test are safe and that the test performs well, under controlled APHA facility environments.

The field trials are taking place on commercial livestock farms across the country and are due to be completed this year.

Phase 2 will involve at least five farms with 600 animals participating, 300 of which will be vaccinated with CattleBCG, whilst the remaining half will receive a placebo.

In July 2021, APHA began Phase 1 of trials in England, which focused on the safety and performance of the DIVA skin test in unvaccinated animals. Performed on ten farms with 524 participating animals, Phase 1 was completed in May 2022 and analysis of the results is in progress.

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In a joint statement the Chief Veterinary Officers from England, Scotland and Wales said: “Bovine TB represents one of the most difficult animal disease challenges the world faces today.

"We are making substantial progress in developing an additional tool to help eradicate this disease with the new cattle vaccine and DIVA skin test - and are very grateful to the vets and farmers taking part for their efforts in making this work on the ground.

“If this next phase is successful, this project takes us one step closer to a vaccine to be used in conjunction with other measures to tackle this insidious disease which impacts livestock farmers across the globe.”

Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is one of the most difficult and intractable animal health challenges that the UK faces today. More than 38,000 cattle in England and Wales were slaughtered in 2021 to tackle the disease.

More information about the bTB cattle vaccination programme can be found on the  TB Hub.