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Oral TB vaccine for possums created

Published: 7:00PM Thursday June 25, 2009 Source: ONE News

Dunedin researchers say they've got a world first solution to a furry problem for livestock farmers.

The new oral vaccine for possum tuberculosis could also solve cattle TB problems around the world.

Possums are a prime pest in New Zealand and a key spreader of tuberculosis.

Dan Tompkins from Landcare Research says if they can control TB in possums it should disappear from the rest of the wildlife, not to mention domestic stock as well.
Otago Federated Farmers Dairy Chair David Wilson says overseas "they are always looking to see what effects of TB we are having in NZ so we've got a programme in place to control that".

Tompkins says it will take a while before all the possums have the TB vaccine.

"You can't go out there and catch every single animal and give them an injection. It has to be something that can be either spread by helicopter or put in hoppers that then they go and eat," says Tompkins.

The plan is to develop biodegradable sachets or pellets that contain the vaccine. 

That's particularly useful when there is stock around, when there are waterways, or it's a populated area.

They say in the bush, it could be dropped alongside 1080.

"The benefit of doing that is that we hope we can actually reduce the amount of toxin used, by having the vaccine out there as well," says Tompkins.

And it's big news for dairy farmers, who say it is cost friendly as well.

"Instead of us paying ongoing costs ever and a day to try to control the TB, we can actually get to the point of eradication," says Tompkins.

The next step is to monitor how long immunisation lasts in the wild.

If it goes as the researchers hope, it could mean a TB free future for livestock around the world.