The eradication of tuberculosis (Mycobacterium bovis infection) from cattle herds may be compromised if infected wildlife species, such as European badgers (Meles meles), share the same environment and contribute to transfer of infection. Options for dealing with tuberculosis in this wild reservoir host are limited by conservation and social concerns, despite a clear implication that infected badgers are involved with the initiation of tuberculosis in cattle herds. Vaccination of badgers against M. bovis, if successfully employed, would directly facilitate the completion of bovine tuberculosis eradication in affected areas. Vaccine trials in captive badgers have established that the M. bovis bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine can induce a protective response that limits the distribution and severity of tuberculosis disease following experimental challenge. The protective effect of the vaccine has been demonstrated when the vaccine was delivered by subcutaneous injection, deposited on mucous membranes, and given orally in a lipid formulation. A large-scale field trial of oral BCG vaccine has been designed to measure the protection generated in wild badgers subjected to natural transmission of infection and to estimate vaccine efficacy. These parameters will be estimated by comparing the prevalence of M. bovis infection in vaccinated and nonvaccinated badgers. The results will provide a framework for the development and implementation of a national strategy to eliminate the disease in badger populations and if successful will remove this major impediment to bovine tuberculosis eradication.
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