Bringing together international expertise with the aim of eradicating bTB, Aberystwyth University has established the Centre of Excellence for Bovine Tuberculosis as part of the Sêr Cymru programme funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Welsh Government. It is headed up by world-renowned bTB expert Professor Glyn Hewinson, Sêr Cymru Chair.
As part of this initiative, the Centre is to hold an annual TB conference (AberTB) to provide delegates with the latest information on various aspects of disease control through a series of presentations and panel discussions.
Update on key areas of TB diagnosis
Commenting on the conference, Professor Hewinson said: “Part of the mission of the Centre of Excellence is to develop further pan-industry awareness of developments within the field of Bovine TB and efforts to control this highly damaging disease.
“We will hear contributions from many highly respected individuals who can update us on all the key areas of work in TB diagnosis.
“The intention of this event is to promote a common understanding around how current practices along with developments in this field can enhance and influence work by farmers, vets, scientific researchers and government in order to progress our battle with Bovine TB.
“I am aware of the interest that has been generated in the Actiphage® test and was keen for the delegates to understand the plans that PDP Biotech have to validate their test and what timescale they have for achieving OIE test accreditation as these are a questions that are regularly raised.”
The day will focus on ‘Diagnosis of Bovine Tuberculosis: Current practice and Future Innovations’ for which Dr Ben Swift, PBD Biotech’s R&D Director, has been asked to discuss the company’s Actiphage test.
Dr Swift explains: “By identifying cattle carrying low levels of live Mycobacterium bovis, Actiphage can give farmers, vets and other animal health experts a much-needed head-start on the race to catch TB, helping to inform an effective disease management strategy.”
The test has been used successfully for disease management. As part of a private TB eradication strategy, a Devon vet helped to clear a dairy herd of bovine TB for the first time in six years.
In May 2018, the UK Government accepted Actiphage as part of their protocol for exceptional private use on TB-stricken cattle herds in England.
First Welsh farm-trial of Actiphage test
A farm-based trial is also underway in Ceredigion on a chronic breakdown dairy unit. The trial, licensed by the Welsh Government, is the first of its kind in Wales.
It is being led by Clinical Director of Tysul Vets, Robert Price-Jones, and is running alongside APHA statutory testing. Carefully selected high risk cattle are being Actiphage-tested in addition to the standard skin testing, Gamma Interferon and ELISA blood testing being performed by APHA. This has enabled the detection of M. Bovis in cattle that have tested clear by all other testing methods.
Vet Robert Price-Jones says: “There remains a need for an accurate blood test that detects M. bovis directly, rather than relying on immunological methods of detection.
“The trial’s initial results indicate that Actiphage has a high sensitivity and specificity with nearly 60% of our ‘high risk’ group of animals testing positive. All of these high risk animals had recently tested clear to the conventional skin test and Gamma Interferon tests in the two weeks prior to testing with Actiphage. A small number of the Actiphage-positive animals later tested positive to an ELISA antibody test.
“The trial is ongoing yet our initial results suggest Actiphage will detect animals harbouring M. bovis that conventional testing is failing to detect.”
Inaugural AberTB Conference
The inaugural one-day conference aims to provide delegates with a greater understanding of current tests and their limitations and to give a forward look at new tests that are on the horizon.
The keynote speech will be given by Professor Christianne Glossop, Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales, who will provide an update on progress with bTB eradication in Wales. Other speakers from the fields of scientific research, veterinary science, agriculture and government will discuss the immunology of the disease, detection of mycobacteria and how to optimise testing.
The summary will be given by Welsh Dairy Farmer Abi Reader, founder of #CowsOnTour.
AberTB is being held at the Medrus Conference Centre, Penbryn Halls of Residence, Aberystwyth University SY23 3BY on 17 September.