A new blood and milk test for bovine TB is expected to help improve detection rates and could soon play a major role alongside existing tests in the UK’s fight against the disease.
The Enferplex test, which detects the presence of a number of different antibodies which are produced by the animal in response to a TB infection, is said to be on the verge of gaining ministerial approval to undergo UK trials and validation.
Once this process goes ahead, it is expected to lead to full EU approval, after which the test could play a significant role in the eradication of TB in the UK.
Alastair Hayton, from Synergy Farm Vets, one company spearheading the uptake of the new test, said: “The best scenario is we will have the science completed by early to mid-2016 and then it is a question of how quickly the relevant EU and UK administrations can move, assuming positive results are established.
The new test is unlike the two in current use – the skin test and interferon test – which aim to identify changes at the cell level, known as the cell mediated immune response (CMI).
“Because of its different mode of operation, the new test is likely to detect a different population of infected animals from the current tests and could pick up earlier infection and give more reliable results,” Mr Hayton said. “In particular, it is hoped it will have a value in detecting significantly more infected animals in chronic endemically infected herds and provide the opportunity to clear out these herds more quickly.”
He said this was because the immune response measured in the existing tests often diminishes as an animal’s infection becomes more long-term and severe. This was said to explain why the skin test was often criticised for failing when it is needed most, as an animal with lesions could be the one which fails to be picked up by the skin test because of its absence of a normal immune response.
However, tests based on antibody detection will not be affected by this phenomenon and should, therefore, still detect these infected animals.
“We are not suggesting we can replace the skin or interferon test but we think we can help farmers fully identify true infection in their herds and thereby reduce the time under restriction,” he said.
The test was also said to have the scope to be used for diagnosing TB in badgers. Its uptake is being driven by Synergy in collaboration with MV Diagnostics in Scotland and the Enfer Group in Ireland.