Use of synthetic peptides derived from the antigens ESAT-6 and CFP-10 for differential diagnosis of bovine tuberculosis in cattle

H. M. Vordermeier*, A. Whelan, P. J. Cockle, L. Farrant, N. Palmer, R. G. Hewinson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In Great Britain an independent scientific review for the government has concluded that the development of a cattle vaccine against Mycobacterium bovis infection holds the best long-term prospect for tuberculosis control in British herds. A precondition for vaccination is the development of a complementary diagnostic test to differentiate between vaccinated animals and those infected with M. bovis so that testing and slaughter-based control strategies can continue alongside vaccination. To date bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG), an attenuated strain of M. bovis, is the only available vaccine for the prevention of tuberculosis. However, tests based on tuberculin purified protein derivative cannot distinguish between M. bovis infection and BCG vaccination. Therefore, specific antigens expressed by M. bovis but absent from BCG constitute prime candidates for differential diagnostic reagents. Recently, two such antigens, ESAT-6 and CFP-10, have been reported to be promising candidates as diagnostic reagents for the detection of M. bovis infection in cattle. Here we report the identification of promiscuous peptides of CFP-10 that were recognized by M. bovis-infected cattle. Five of these peptides were formulated into a peptide cocktail together with five peptides derived from ESAT-6. Using this peptide cocktail in T-cell assays, M. bovis-infected animals were detected, while BCG-vaccinated or Mycobacterium avium-sensitized animals did not respond. The sensitivity of the peptide cocktail as an antigen in a whole-blood gamma interferon assay was determined using naturally infected field reactor cattle, and the specificity was determined using blood from BCG-vaccinated and noninfected, nonvaccinated animals. The sensitivity of the assay in cattle with confirmed tuberculosis was found to be 77.9%, with a specificity of 100% in BCG-vaccinated or nonvaccinated animals. This compares favorably with the specificity of tuberculin when tested in noninfected or vaccinated animals. In summary, our results demonstrate that this peptide cocktail can discriminate between M. bovis infection and BCG vaccination with a high degree of sensitivity and specificity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)571-578
Number of pages8
JournalClinical and Diagnostic Laboratory Immunology
Issue number3
Early online date01 May 2001
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2001


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