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Free Content Partial protection against oral challenge with Mycobacterium bovis in ferrets (Mustela furo) following oral vaccination with BCG

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SETTING: Ferrets (Mustela furo) are important wildlife vectors of bovine tuberculosis (TB) in New Zealand. Protective vaccination of ferrets may limit the potential of transmission to livestock.

OBJECTIVE: To determine whether orally-delivered Mycobacterium bovis BCG can confer protection against oral challenge with virulent M. bovis.

DESIGN: Ten ferrets were vaccinated by feeding measured doses of live BCG, and subsequently challenged with virulent M. bovis via the oral route. Ten non-vaccinated (control) ferrets were similarly challenged. Live body weights and lymphocyte reactivity were monitored longitudinally, and ferrets were killed 20 weeks following challenge. Necropsy, histological examination and bacterial culture of alimentary tract lymphatic tissues were undertaken.

RESULTS: There was a significant reduction in the incidence of gross tuberculous lesions among vaccinated ferrets compared to control animals, and fewer vaccinated ferrets had histologically-detectable acid-fast organisms in mesenteric lymph node (LN) tissues. There were significantly fewer vaccinated ferrets with culture-positive retropharyngeal LNs, and the mean bacterial burden was significantly lower for retropharyngeal LNs isolated from vaccinated animals than from controls.

CONCLUSION: These results demonstrate that oral BCG vaccination of ferrets can confer partial protection against M. bovis, and suggest that systemic immune responses may be less important in mediating this degree of protection than local immunity.

Keywords: BCG; Mustela furo; Mycobacterium bovis; ferret; oral vaccination; tuberculosis

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: Department of Veterinary Pathology, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA; and AgResearch, Invermay Agricultural Centre, Mosgiel, New Zealand 2: AgResearch, Invermay Agricultural Centre, Mosgiel, New Zealand 3: Deer Research Laboratory, Department of Microbiology, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

Publication date: November 1, 1999

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  • The International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease publishes articles on all aspects of lung health, including public health-related issues such as training programmes, cost-benefit analysis, legislation, epidemiology, intervention studies and health systems research. The IJTLD is dedicated to the continuing education of physicians and health personnel and the dissemination of information on tuberculosis and lung health world-wide.

    Certain IJTLD articles are selected for translation into French, Spanish, Chinese or Russian. They are available on the Union website

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