Last month PBD Biotech met with DAERA about its new bovine TB test, to discuss how the rapid Actiphage® diagnostic could be integrated into the Department’s ongoing eradication programme.
Responding to today’s report, PBD Biotech’s CEO, Dr Berwyn Clarke, said, “The report adds to the mounting body of evidence on the shortcomings of currently used TB tests, meaning infected animals are very likely being left in herd. It is vital that this hidden reservoir of infection is eradicated; otherwise, all other interventions will have very little benefit. And the unreliability of the tests cast doubt on whether TB-free status is genuinely the case.
“Unlike tests that rely on an immune response to infection, we have developed Actiphage to directly detect and identify the bacteria causing infection, and trials have proven the test’s ability to routinely detect mycobacteria in both blood and milk at less than 10 cells per sample.”
In a survey of SCCIT-positive UK cattle tested at slaughter, using Actiphage, live Mycobacterium bovis was detected not only in the blood of all animals with visible lesions, but also in 93% of animals with no visible lesions following post-mortem examination. Whereas no mycobacteria were detected in blood samples from control animals that were taken from a high-biosecurity status herd known to be disease-free. Defra have highlighted this finding to support the interpretation of SCCIT-positive test results when lesions are not detected at slaughter.
Dr Clarke added: “Actiphage is involved in a number of studies with bovine, ovine as well as exotic species in the UK and overseas. We are keen to work together with DAERA to support the roll out of new disease management protocols, which include Actiphage, to achieve TB-free status for farmers, vets and industry in Northern Ireland.”
Earlier this year the new highly sensitive and specific Actiphage test was included in the UK Government’s Exceptional private use policy for chronic TB breakdowns in England. This new strategy was driven by the test’s field validation, during studies conducted by vet Dick Sibley, who incorporated Actiphage into a disease management strategy to help clear a Devon dairy herd that had been stricken with TB since 2012.