Bovine TB research and development

Defra funds bovine tuberculosis (bTB) research and development (R&D) to inform policy making and to provide tools to fight the epidemic, with a focus on high quality results with a real impact.

The Godfray Review of Defra’s strategy for achieving bTB-freedom in England, highlighted the need for improved understanding and technologies to help eradicate bTB. In its response, the Government recognised that it needed to increase the output of its R&D programme as part of the solution to achieving its target of bTB freedom for England by 2038. Alongside the primary goal of developing a deployable TB vaccine for cattle, Defra continues to support policy-relevant bTB R&D. This includes both direct funding from Defra and co-funding leveraged from other providers e.g. UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Defra holds a non-devolved bTB R&D budget on behalf of the three administrations in Great Britain (GB) – Defra, Welsh Government and Scottish Government. Defra also funds bTB R&D outside of the shared GB bTB research budget. Defra’s bTB R&D portfolio can be divided into five blocks based on the aspects of the epidemic they address, although there is considerable overlap and interdependency.

Improved cattle tests and vaccines
Designing, predicting and evaluating policies
Understanding and managing the wildlife reservoir
On-farm biosecurity interventions
Socio-economic drivers of behaviour
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Defra’s bovine TB Partnership plays a role in helping to identify bTB evidence requirements in England. Defra’s expert committee, the bTB Microbiology & Immunology Research Advisory Panel (MIRAP) provides impartial advice to Defra, Welsh Government and Scottish Government on the quality and direction of the GB bTB R&D programme. Defra publishes reports of publicly funded bTB R&D projects on Defra Science Search and the contractors may also publish their findings in scientific journals. Find out more about completed and ongoing bTB R&D projects in the pages below.

Holstein cattle grazing - Bovine TB

Development of a deployable TB vaccine for cattle

Decades of research by the Animal & Plant Health Agency is culminating in field trails for the candidate BCG vaccine and associated DIVA skin test.

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TB testing cows on a farm - TB hub

Attitudes to vaccinating cattle and badgers against TB

This social science research used interviews and focus groups to explore farmer attitudes to vaccinating cattle and badgers against TB.

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Cows grazing - Bovine TB

Detection of bovine TB infectivity in slurry and manure

A summary of Defra-funded research examining levels of M. bovis bacteria present in the faeces of TB reactor cattle in England and Ireland.

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Badger drinking water - Bovine TB

Survey for TB in found dead badgers in the Southern Edge Area

Find out about a Defra-funded research project to detect the presence and location of TB infection in badgers in the Southern Edge Area counties in England.

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Blood Sampling - Bovine TB

Help for businesses developing diagnostic tests for TB in cattle

The Animal & Plant Health Agency is providing free access to samples for commercial development and enhancement of diagnostic tests for bovine TB.

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Cows in a farmyard - TB Hub

Presentation of bovine TB risk information at the point of purchase

A summary of Defra-funded research looking at whether the way in which bovine TB risk information is presented influences the purchasing habits of cattle farmers.

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Farm gate prior to re-enforcement

Cost of a TB breakdown report

A summary of Defra-funded research estimating the financial cost of a TB breakdown to cattle farms across England and Wales.

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Young cows in a field - Bovine TB

Cattle purchasing decisions report

Key findings of Defra-funded research on the factors that influence farmer's decision making and use of information when purchasing cattle.

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Dark brown poo - Bovine TB

Detection of M. bovis in badger faeces​

Defra-funded research conducted in England to test various methods to detect the TB bacterium in badger faeces.

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Badger at dusk - Bovine TB

Badger found dead survey in the Edge Area of England 2016-17

A joint study by the Universities of Surrey and Nottingham in 2016-17 culturing M. bovis from road-killed badgers.

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Test tubes - TB Hub

Development of the Actiphage test for bovine TB

A semi-experimental test in development that uses a bacteriophage, a virus that infects bacteria.

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