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UC Davis Begins Expanded Vaccine Field Trials for Foothill Abortion

The vaccine aims to treat a tick-borne bacterial disease which kills cow fetuses.

A new vaccine developed by veterinary immunologist Jeff Stott shows promise for preventing foothill abortion disease, which kills calves before or at birth. 

Don Preisler/UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine

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The University of California, Davis, has begun its expanded field trials on a vaccine that researchers hope will treat a tick-borne bacterial disease which kills cow fetuses.

The disease, also known as foothill abortion, is endemic in California’s coastal range and the foothill regions of California, Southern Oregon and Northern Nevada. It is a major cause of economic loss for California beef producers, according to UC Davis, annually causing the death of about 45,000 to 90,000 calves.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the expansion of ongoing field trials in November for an experimental vaccine, developed by UC Davis veterinary researchers, after it was shown to be effective in preventing foothill abortion in more than 2,000 cattle. The expanded trials began in April and will further establish the vaccine’s effectiveness in varied conditions as well as provide relief to ranchers, according to the university.

“Our Western cattle producers are desperate for some relief to stop their losses resulting from this disease,” said Professor Jeff Stott, Ph.D., a UC Davis veterinary immunologist.

Stott has led the effort in collaboration with the California Cattlemen’s Association, the USDA Center for Veterinary Biologics, the Animal Health Branch of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the Nevada Department of Agriculture and the University of Nevada, Reno.

Preliminary vaccine field trials began in 2011 and have since involved more than 4,000 cattle in California and Nevada. The expanded trials involving several thousand more cattle are expected to last into 2017.

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