Using a new approach to create the first bovine tuberculosis vaccine

January 23, 2019
A herd of cattle in a field.

Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is a costly cattle disease that primarily affects low and middle-income countries. More than 50 million cattle are infected every year, costing an estimated US$3 billion annually. The disease results in reduced agricultural productivity, tighter trade restrictions, and subsequent human infections caused by direct contact and by consuming unpasteurized products from infected animals.

Current vaccine research

Presently, there are no licensed vaccines that target bTB. Some of the ongoing vaccine development efforts use the closely related human live attenuated vaccine strain known as Bacille Calmette Guérin (BCG). Unfortunately, BCG does not contain the full repertoire of proteins required for protecting against bTB. The remaining research mainly focuses on identification of mycobacterial antigens that could be used to develop subunit vaccines.

An emerging approach: using the captured antigen presentation system (CAPS)

CAPS is a novel approach that creates an artificial lymph node that attracts and activates immune cells and enables them to trap bacteria. Entrapment of bacteria is enhanced by the use of magnetic opsonin technology, where specially coated magnetic beads trap and localize bacterial material for stronger immune activation. CAPS has shown promising results in mouse studies and for a number of different pathogens.

Expected results

This project is expected to use the innovative CAPS approach to design and generate the first effective, safe, and economical vaccine against bTB. An effective bTB vaccine will save millions of susceptible cattle worldwide, result in increased food security in low and middle-income countries, and reduce human tuberculosis infections resulting from exposure to infected cattle.

Lead institutions

This project is a collaboration between the Wyss Institute at Harvard University and VIDO-InterVac at the University of Saskatchewan.

  • Duration: 24 months
  • Budget: CA$1.4 million