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Free Content Systemic but not intra-intestinal vaccination with BCG reduces the severity of tuberculosis infection in ferrets (Mustela furo)

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SETTING: Ferrets are important wildlife vectors of bovine tuberculosis (Mycobacterium bovis) in New Zealand. By reducing the severity and/or incidence of tuberculosis (TB) in wild ferret populations, vaccination may limit disease transmission to livestock.

OBJECTIVE: To investigate whether vaccination of ferrets with attenuated M. bovis BCG via systemic or intra-intestinal routes can reduce the severity of TB resulting from oral M. bovis challenge.

DESIGN: Groups of captive ferrets were vaccinated with live BCG via sub-cutaneous injection or intra-duodenal inoculation, twice, 4 weeks apart. Vaccinated and non-vaccinated (control) ferrets were subsequently challenged orally with virulent M. bovis to simulate the natural route of infection. Peripheral blood lymphocyte reactivity was longitudinally monitored, and the outcome of challenge was determined 20 weeks later by autopsy, histology and bacteriological culture.

RESULT: Both vaccination routes induced tuberculin-specific lymphocyte reactivity; however, only the sub-cutaneous route was effective in reducing disease. Sub-cutaneous vaccinated ferrets had a lower severity of infection than non-vaccinated control animals, as indicated by significant reductions in viable bacterial burdens and prevention of gross lesions in mesenteric lymph nodes (the primary site of infection), and a lower incidence of bacterial translocation to thoracic lymph nodes. However, sub-cutaneous vaccination did not reduce the incidence of mesenteric lymph node infection.

CONCLUSIONS: Systemic vaccination with BCG can reduce the severity of TB resulting from oral challenge with virulent M. bovis; however, delivery of viable BCG to the upper intestinal tract may not protect ferrets against TB.

Keywords: BCG; bovine tuberculosis; ferrets; vaccination

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: AgResearch, Invermay Agricultural Centre, Mosgiel, New Zealand; and Milk and Health Research Centre, Institute of Food, Nutrition and Human Health, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand 2: AgResearch, Invermay Agricultural Centre, Mosgiel, New Zealand 3: Disease Research Laboratory, Department of Microbiology, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

Publication date: May 1, 2000

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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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