24 March 2023, UK: The future of bovine tuberculosis (bovine TB) research has come under the microscope at a workshop hosted by the STAR-IDAZ International Research Consortium (IRC) in Birmingham, UK.
CABI runs the STAR-IDAZ IRC secretariat, alongside the UK Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) and Kreavet, and played a key role in helping to facilitate the workshop.
Nearly 100 experts in bovine TB from around the world – including Europe, Africa, Asia, the USA and South America, came together in person and online for the event which discussed research roadmaps to guide future activities in the area.
Bovine TB is a chronic disease of animals – caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis) which is closely related to the bacteria that causes human and avian tuberculosis.
Mainly a respiratory disease, both animals and humans can be infected and transmission can occur through nose to nose contact and also through contact with saliva, urine, faeces and milk.
For farmers bovine TB has multiple consequences such as loss of stock, problems with cash flow, costs of housing and feeding additional stock, loss of business control and uncertainty over the future.
The disease is currently present in England and Wales but the highest prevalence is in Africa, parts of Asia, in Europe and the Americas.
Professor James Wood, of the University of Cambridge, and Professor Vivek Kapur, from Penn State University, USA, led the three discussion sections during the workshop looking at gaps and challenges, looking forward, and reflections and next steps.
Dr Johannes Charlier, Managing Director of Kreavet and coordinator of the STAR-IDAZ secretariat, concluded the meeting and presented a plan regarding the next steps in the STAR-IDAZ roadmap.
During the workshop, the experts discussed the challenges of tackling bovine TB and focussed on diagnostics, control tools and strategies and available vaccines.
The group recognized the importance of developing solutions that are economically viable and have a real impact on farmers and their families. This included how to develop better vaccines and pen-side testing.
They agreed that a bottom-up approach’ was needed, and that there is no one-size-fits-all solution given the huge differences in animal husbandry, epidemiology and disease impact around the world.
The delegates also emphasized the need to think outside of regulatory and policy boxes and prioritize ideas that can make a difference in the next 10 to 15 years.
This included the need for more knowledge transfer, context-appropriate solutions and a focus on the socio-economic context of the problem, using multi-disciplinary approaches to tackle this issue.
During the final discussions, the experts reflected on six research leads emerging from the previous discussions. These will help to create, refine and validate bovine TB roadmaps for future research and innovation in this area.
The experts further acknowledged the importance of considering different species within domestic livestock and emphasized the need for a globally connected research community.
Dr Charlier said, “The insights gained from the workshop will guide future activities of funding organisations that are members of STAR-IDAZ IRC and ensure that future research will provide context-appropriate solutions, with global benefits.
“The group’s multi-disciplinary approach to tackling this issue is crucial in developing solutions and ensuring that they are implemented successfully.”
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