A new test to identify TB infection more quickly and simply in animals post-mortem has been rolled out in Great Britain, the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) has announced.
APHA has now validated a new polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test which can detect the bacterium responsible for bovine TB directly from tissue samples collected at post-mortem inspection.
This new method will reduce the time taken for APHA laboratories to report results to livestock keepers from up to 22 weeks to just three weeks. This means in certain situations, if the PCR test results are negative, APHA will be able to lift herd movement restrictions much sooner than existing protocols allow.
Currently, the main method of confirming TB infection is traditional microbiological culture, which involves growing the bacterium in a laboratory from tissue samples. This process can take up to 22 weeks for results to be obtained and farmers informed if restrictions remain or are to be lifted. The new test will allow us to detect new cases of TB earlier and so help stop the spread of this insidious disease to other farms.
Initially, the new PCR test will replace microbiological culture for tissue samples collected from the following:
- TB slaughterhouse cases in cattle and non-bovines (animals routinely sent for private commercial slaughter which were found to have lesions suspicious of TB at routine meat inspection).
- Non-bovine animals such as goats, pigs and camelids that are removed as TB test reactors, direct contacts or clinical TB suspects, and cases where TB lesions are identified on post-mortem examination in a veterinary laboratory.
- Domestic pets, such as cats and dogs, and exotic species of animals submitted to APHA for laboratory investigation.
Welcoming the launch of the new PCR test, UK Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss said: “Fast and reliable testing is essential in halting the spread of this insidious disease in animals.
“This new PCR test ensures APHA can continue its vital role in detecting disease on farms and it will be welcome news for livestock farmers who have been greatly impacted by this disease.”
Bovine TB is the most difficult and intractable animal health challenge that we face today and costs taxpayers around £100 million every year. Over 27,000 cattle in England have had to be slaughtered in the last year to tackle the disease and the UK is leading the way in the development of a cattle vaccine with the aim of rolling it out by 2025.
Further information on the new PCR test can be found on the TB Hub.