20 July 2004
Algae bead breakthrough for badger TB vaccine
A RESEARCH team at Aston University has received funding to try and develop an efficient vaccine for badgers against TB.
In the UK, the animals are often infected with bovine Tuberculosis (TB) and there is evidence that they may be linked with TB infection in cattle, which has resulted in randomised badger culling since 1998. Obviously this isn't the most humane way of dealing with the problem, so researchers from the Medicines Research Unit at Aston are trying to develop a new TB vaccine delivery method for use on uncle brock.
TB is an infectious disease affecting man and many animal species including cattle. Last year alone, over 20,000 cattle were slaughtered in the UK (at a cost of 31 million in farmer compensation) due to TB infection. However the persistence of infection recorded in cattle herds remains high, and control of bovine TB has proved difficult in countries where there is a wildlife reservoir for the disease. Whilst the majority of TB transmission in herds results from cattle to cattle transmissions, a proportion of disease outbreaks may be associated with the presence of infected wildlife.
In an effort to remove this TB transmission route from badgers to cattle, Aston researchers Dr Yvonne Perrie and Dr Hannah Batchelor are working in conjunction with the Veterinary Licensing Agency to develop appropriate vaccines.
They explain: 'We have used alginate gel beads as a means to deliver the vaccine orally to badgers. A significant problem in the oral delivery of vaccines is that the acid within the stomach of the badger destroys the fragile vaccine, thus it does not reach the intestines where it is absorbed. If we can entrap the vaccine inside these gel beads we can protect it within the stomach so that it reaches the intestine where the beads dissolve to release the vaccine. Our preliminary experiments have shown that the beads remain intact within a solution of acid (simulated gastric fluid) for up to two hours, after this time the beads are transferred to simulated intestinal fluid where they are seen to fully dissolve over a two-hour period.
Alginates are natural products derived from seaweed, they have no taste or smell and can be found in many food substances eaten on a daily basis (eg ice-cream), so they are perfectly safe for badgers to eat. Current research is investigating how to get these beads to badgers and how they should be incorporated into bait that will temp them, so far it's known that badgers mainly eat earthworms but also enjoy chocolate!' So watch this space for news of the world's nicest tasting vaccine.
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