South Africa, Pretoria – The University of Pretoria has announced the start of vaccine trials for TB in African buffalo.
Called bovine tuberculosis, this strain is an extremely slow but steadily progressing disease, that poses a serious health threat to cattle, wildlife and people, especially in developing countries.
Without active surveillance, bovine TB goes unnoticed for years until it has escalated to a point where animals present with severe disease. It will be led by Professor Anita Michel and Dr Jennie Hewlett, who believe the spread of TB within and between animal populations is virtually unstoppable, and culling infected animals is the only solution.
“The urgent need for alternative control strategies, which are able to reduce and ideally cease disease spread, sparked plans for an important TB vaccination trial among African buffalo,” said Hewlett, a lecturer in the Department of Paraclinical Sciences.
“The protective effects of two anti-TB vaccines will be systematically studied in buffalo under controlled conditions for nine to 12 months in the state veterinary quarantine bomas at Skukuza,” said Michel of the Department of Veterinary Tropical Diseases.
They have received overwhelming support from a team of local wildlife, veterinary and state veterinary professionals who ensured a safe and efficient operation, from capture and testing to translocating the buffalo.
“For the study, Phinda Private Game Reserve and the Manyoni Private Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal donated 26 buffalo,” said Michel.
“The level of stakeholder involvement is indicative of the disease challenge at hand. It is crucial to remember that bovine TB is a zoonotic disease, and can be spread from animals to humans,” said Hewlett.