The use of new PCR tests to confirm bTB infection is to be expanded following the success of the tests in an initial rollout, the Animal and Plant Agency (APHA) has confirmed today.

The new method reduced the time taken for APHA laboratories to report results to livestock keepers from up to 22 weeks to just three weeks. This meant that in certain situations, if the PCR test results were negative, APHA could lift herd movement restrictions much sooner than the previous protocols allowed.

The validated polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test can detect the bacterium responsible for bovine TB directly from tissue samples collected at post-mortem inspection.

APHA will now expand the PCR test’s use in England, Wales and Scotland to post-mortem tissue samples taken from cattle that have tested positive for bTB, direct contacts and privately or compulsory slaughtered or dead animals with a skin test result that is inconclusive.

APHA chief executive David Holdsworth said: 

“We know waiting for TB results can be a stressful time for farmers so reducing the time for results to be delivered has been a key focus for APHA. I am pleased that we have progressed to rolling out the PCR test to cover even more bovine TB samples and cut the time it takes to report these crucial results to livestock keepers to just three weeks.

“This is a significant step for APHA and we will continue to work tirelessly in the fight to eradicate this disease.”

UK Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer Ele Brown said:

“Timely and reliable testing is essential in halting the spread of this insidious disease in animals, and the initial rollout of the PCR test has shown a tenfold improvement in testing turnaround time.

“I am pleased that its use will now be extended even further, ensuring that APHA can continue its vital role in detecting disease on farms, and give farmers earlier certainty of disease in their herd.”

Bovine TB is the most difficult and intractable animal health challenge that we face today and costs taxpayers around £100 million every year.

The new test initially replaced microbiological culture for tissue samples collected from the following:

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

The planned expansion to more samples will launch on 14 February. Further information on the PCR test can be found on the TB Hub in due course.

Autor HM Government


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