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Comp Immunol Microbiol Infect Dis. 2008 Mar;31(2-3):77-100. Epub 2007 Aug 30.

Bovine TB and the development of new vaccines.

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  • 1Institute for Animal Health, Compton, Newbury, Berkshire RG20 7NN, UK.


Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is caused by Mycobacterium bovis. The incidence of bTB is increasing in cattle herds of developed countries that have a wild life reservoir of M. bovis, such as the UK, New Zealand and the USA. The increase in the incidence of bTB is thought to be due, at least in part, to a wildlife reservoir of M. bovis. M. bovis is also capable of infecting humans and on a worldwide basis, M. bovis is thought to account for up to 10% of cases of human TB [Cosivi O, Grange JM, Daborn CJ et al. Zoonotic tuberculosis due to Mycobacterium bovis in developing countries. Emerg Infect Dis 1998;4(1):59-70]. Thus, the increased incidence of bTB, besides being a major economic problem, poses an increased risk to human health. In the UK, the incidence of bTB continues to rise despite the use of the tuberculin test and slaughter control policy, highlighting the need for improved control strategies. Vaccination of cattle, in combination with more specific and sensitive diagnostic tests, is suggested as the most effective strategy for bovine TB control. The only vaccine currently available for human and bovine TB is the live attenuated Bacille Calmette Guerin (BCG). BCG is thought to confer protection through the induction of Th1 responses against mycobacteria. However, protection against TB conferred by BCG is variable and to this date the reasons for the successes and failures of BCG are not clear. Therefore, there is a need to develop vaccines that confer greater and more consistent protection against bTB than that afforded by BCG. Given that BCG is currently the only licensed vaccine against human TB, it is likely that any new vaccine or vaccination strategy will be based around BCG. In this review we discuss immune responses elicited by mycobacteria in cattle and the novel approaches emerging for the control of bovine TB based on our increasing knowledge of protective immune responses.

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