Pen-side tests for liver fluke and salmonella could lead to much faster diagnosis, more targeted treatments and a reduction in problems associated with antimicrobial and drug resistance.
Freddie Mitchell, from Kingston University, said current diagnosis for salmonella in calves could take anywhere between two and seven days.
She said: “We need to treat this disease quickly. Rapid diagnosis will increase animal welfare, reduce spread of infection, protect public health [as a zoonotic disease], and safeguard antibiotics.”
She explained she was working on a LAMP assay test for salmonella, which tests the faecal matter of a calf, and could give a result in about 25 minutes.
“We hope this will soon be commercially available and it will provide the farmer with a simple surveillance tool which will help us safeguard antibiotics so they are only used when necessary.”
Similarly, a pen-side test for liver fluke is under development, and its creators hope faster diagnosis and a more targeted treatment programme will aid in slowing down drug resistance problems.
Tessa Walsh, a pHD student at Liverpool University, estimated liver fluke infections could lead to milk yield losses of about 8-15 per cent/cow/year.
She said: “The prevalence of fluke is increasing in the UK and, as a result, the increased use of the drug triclabendazole has led to a rise in the resistant fluke population.
“While there are diagnostic tools available, they all have their limitations. One they all share is the fact they have to be sent off to a lab for testing.”
Ms Walsh said to speed up the diagnostic process, she had been working on the development of a pen-side test for liver fluke as part of her pHD.
The result is a lateral flow assay, which works like a human pregnancy test. It is based around an antibody test, can give results in a ‘matter of minutes’ and can pick up liver fluke two to three weeks post-infection.
Ms Walsh said: “It is simple and easy to use, and will allow for targeted treatment regimes for individual animals, which could aid in the slowing of resistance.
“Specific for dairy cattle, it can provide fast diagnosis to aid in the treatment of dairy animals at drying off.”
Ms Walsh concluded there was still ‘some work to do’, which would include a full-scale farm trial, but she was hopeful the test would be commercially available in the future.