Find out about a new quicker test for detecting bovine TB

03 March 2022

Dairy Livestock
A dairy farmer releasing a cow from the yoke using a cattle crush

Following on-going calls from the NFU, the APHA has announced details of a new post-mortem test to be introduced as part of the government’s bTB eradication strategy. This new PCR test will be brought into service on 30 March 2022.

What is different about the new test?

The current method for bTB diagnostic testing from tissue samples (of both bovine and non-bovine farmed animals) remains traditional microbiological culture. Although well established, the major disadvantage of this approach is the length of time it typically takes to obtain a result (six to 22 weeks).

The APHA has recently validated a new polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test which can detect the bacterium responsible for bovine TB, Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis) directly from tissue samples collected at post-mortem inspection.

The major advantage of this new method is that it will typically take only three weeks to obtain a result.

How will the new PCR test be used?

This new PCR test will initially only be used in the following situations:

  • TB slaughterhouse cases in cattle and non-bovines i.e. animals routinely sent for private commercial slaughter that have suspicious lesions of TB at routine meat inspection.
  • Non-bovine animals such as camelids, goats, pigs, sheep and farmed deer that are removed as TB test reactors, direct contacts or clinical TB suspects, and cases where TB lesions are identified on diagnostic post-mortem examination in a veterinary laboratory.
  • Domestic pets (cats and dogs) and exotic species of animals (e.g. in zoological collections) submitted to APHA for laboratory investigation.

NFU reaction

NFU Deputy President Tom Bradshaw said: “This is an encouraging announcement and is something the NFU has been asking Defra and APHA to develop and introduce over many years.

“The impact of bovine TB on farming families is enormous and these new developments can help to reduce the uncertainty and strain it places on farmers by significantly reducing the time waiting for a test result. The benefits will also enhance the control of bovine TB by enabling both government and industry to detect disease much earlier.

“We hope to see the use of this test extended across Defra’s bovine TB eradication strategy in due course, as part of an effective and evidence-based TB eradication strategy.”

More information

For further information on the details of this new test, please visit the TBhub website: PCR test for detection of M. bovis in post-mortem tissue samples

Animal health Bovine TB

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