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The objectives of the research program were to obtain a better understanding of BCG as a tuberculosis vaccine in possums, and assess its potential as a tool for controlling tuberculosis in wild possum populations. A series of vaccination and challenge experiments were conducted, as well as studies on alternative experimental infection procedures. The program included two field studies, one on the epidemiology of tuberculosis in a population of possums regenerating after localised possum eradication, and the other examined the efficacy of BCG vaccine in a wild population in which tuberculosis was endemic.
The first experiments confirmed the earlier published findings that BCG delivered as an intranasal aerosol induced a protective response. The protective response was found to be present 12 months after vaccination and therefore of sufficient longevity to make vaccination a practical control tool. A second study demonstrated that revaccination of possums enhanced protection and a third showed that conjunctival vaccination was as effective as intranasal aerosol. These findings supported the development of a possum activated self-vaccinator that would deliver vaccine as an aerosol. In delivering the spray to both the external nares and the eyes a simple and cheap device could be designed to efficiently vaccinate wild possums.