Sunday, June 25, 2006

Another £1 million. Who's counting?

While farmers are struggling with herd tb restrictions and undervalued pedigree cattle (see post below) there appears to be no shortage of the readies in the research field. Dr. Cheeseman of badger heaven, overwise known as Woodchester Park, has been awarded £1million to explore badger vaccination. This involves trapping around 250 badgers, transporting to a laboratory and vaccinating them and "could lead to more than 100, 000 badgers being vaccinated nationwide" has a good piece on this little publicised work culled from the ever vigilant
ProMed .. The moderator's comments are, as usual, well worth reading in full. Extract :
"...The Randomised Badger Culling Trials demonstrated that if you do not achieve culling targets above 60 percent (and sometimes these were no more than 20 percent), you will only make matters worse -- Bovine TB was practically eradicated in the UK by 1986 by proactive badger culling along with tuberculin testing of cattle when only 84 herd breakdowns were recorded in that year. ...... as the UK Government acknowledges in their report of 2004, if the present policy of inaction continues there is no way but up!....... Culling, when done efficiently, i.e. when delineated areas are free of badgers for at least 12 months, has an immediate disease control benefit. In the UK there is a stark dichotomy between the demands for culling by the farming community, including wildlife veterinarians, and the extreme reluctance on the part of the government. We have yet to see what the impact of badger vaccination will be. - Mod.MHJ" wonders " However good this news may seem, we are left once again wondering why - if the trials are successful and the vaccine found to be safe and effective - it has to "take at least 5 years before the vaccine could be administered to the general badger population outside the lab through microcapsules mixed with peanuts."

Parliamentary Questions explored some of these questions and received the following answer;

23rd March 2004: Col 686W.

"Under European legislation marketing authorisations for veterinary medicinal products, including vaccines, may only be granted where scientific assessment of data supplied by the applicant demonstrates that the product meets statutory criteria of safety, quality and efficacy. The fee currently charged by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) for processing an application for a UK marketing authorisation is between £1,480 and £21,210, depending on the type of application and application and the complexity of the assessment required. The fee for a novel veterinary vaccine, such as a TB vaccine is likely to be at the upper end of the scale.
European legislation requires applications for new markewting authorisations for veterinary medicinal products to be processed within 210 'clock' days of submission of a valid application. 'Clock days' are calendar days,including weekends and holidays, but excluding any period where further information is requested and awaited from the applicant. [..]
Typically, the total time taken to determine an application for a marketing authorisation for a novel medicine, such as a TB vaccine, could be approximately two years.

European legislation permits provisional marketing authorisations to be granted, in exceptional, objective and verifiable circumstances, without the need for a full data dossier. Such authorisations are only granted where safety has been established and are subject to specific conditions, such as carrying out of further studies for efficacy."

Any progress on damping down the badger / cattle interface is to be welcomed. However, we also note from PQ's March 22 2004, Col 510W, that "M.bovis is endemic in British badgers".

What therefore would be the result of 'vaccinating' an animal already infected with the disease?And if the vaccine were transferred to peanuts, what would be the effect of other species ingesting a not-very-accurate dose? In fact, as badgers are agressive eaters of most things, what would be the result of a single alpha male, scoffing all the laced peanuts on behalf of his tribe? And how practical is 'trapping and injecting' on a wider field scale?

Finally, although this research gives valued employment for Dr. Cheeseman et al , given the parliamentary answer quoted above re vaccines, plus the cost of drug registration, how viable would this product be to pharmaceutical companies? They usually trade worldwide, but this vaccine's use would probably be limited to the UK and Ireland. ( possibly as a single dose jab)

No comments from us here; just pondering.

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