Scientists Develop Vaccine to Protect Cattle from Johne’s Disease

Dan Cattle, USDA-ARS

A cow naturally infected with M. avium subspecies paratuberculosis that is in the late stages of disease and has typical clinical signs such as weight loss, watery diarrhea, and general poor health. This cow is part of a study herd used in research on Johne’s disease at the National Animal Disease Center, Ames, Iowa.
Photo by Peggy Greb

Scientists with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have developed a new experimental vaccine to protect cattle from the bacterium that causes Johne’s disease. The disease is a chronic intestinal disorder that can cause diarrhea, weight loss, poor health and sometimes death in cattle.

In the U.S. Johne’s disease is most prevalent in dairy herds costing the industry more than $220 million annually. But, the disease does affect other ruminant animals like sheep goats and deer.

Researchers created a so-called cocktail of four proteins from the bacteria to create the vaccine. Encouraged by test results with mice, the researchers scaled up their efforts to produce the four proteins and combine them into a single vaccine “cocktail” that could be administered to calves.


Trials with dairy calves indicate the vaccine did not disappoint, rendering the young animals immune to the disease over the course of a year of monitoring. The researchers note the need for additional efficacy trials and welcome collaboration with an industry partner to further explore the patented vaccine cocktail’s commercial potential.

The ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific in-house research agency.