Tester, Baucus: Make brucellosis vaccine research easier

Senators say bacteria’s removal from restrictive government list will provide ‘greater flexibility’ for research

(U.S. SENATE) – Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus want to make it easier for scientists to develop a brucellosis vaccine by removing the bacteria that causes the livestock disease from the government’s high-security “select agent” list.

Because the Brucella abortus bacteria is on the restrictive "select agent" list, it is subject to restrictions that make it much more difficult and expensive to study. Tester and Baucus say removing the bacteria from the government's list will provide "greater flexibility" for scientists working to develop a vaccine.

Brucellosis is an infection that can lead to stillbirth in cattle. Although it rarely impacts people, it can be transmitted to humans through the consumption of raw milk or undercooked meat from infected animals.

“We respectfully urge you to reconsider the appropriateness of listing B. abortus as a select agent,” Tester and Baucus wrote to leaders of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who together maintain the select agent list. “Because of the cost of complying with regulations, the number of facilities that are able to perform large scale research on the pathogen in cattle has been greatly reduced.”

The letter also noted that due to the regulations there is not a single research facility in the United States that can perform the needed research on elk and bison. 

The Senators’ concerns echo those of numerous scientists, including Dr. Jean Celli, a leading brucellosis researcher at the Rocky Mountain Laboratories of National Institutes of Health in Hamilton, who calls B. abortus “critically understudied due to regulatory burdens.”

Members of the Interagency Bison Management Plan recently wrote to Tester and Baucus asking for the removal of B. abortus from the select agent list.

The Tester-Baucus letter to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Thomas Frieden and the Administrator of the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Dr. Gregory Parham is available HERE.