Bovine TB test gets royally rewarded

A blood test to detect diseases that affect dairy cattle developed by researchers at the University of Nottingham has received the Royal Dairy Innovation award.

The research team led by  Dr Cath Rees , an expert in microbiology in the  School of Biosciences  and  Dr Ben Swift (now at the Royal Veterinary College), were presented with this award by Princess Anne at a special ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

They have developed a new test to detect Mycobacteria in blood and milk in just six hours, allowing affected cattle to be identified quickly to allow effective disease management. This simple test detects very low levels of mycobacteria using a bacteriophage-based technique. The new method has been used to show that cattle diagnosed with bovine tuberculosis (bTB) have detectable levels of the bacterium Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis) - which causes this bTB - in their blood.

It has also been used to detect another endemic disease of dairy cattle - Johne’s Disease (JD) - it has even been used for the first time to detect Johne’s Disease in new born calves. By providing early identification there is an opportunity to control the disease before animals become infectious and break the cycle of infection.

The test is now licenced to spin out company, PBD Biotech Ltd, marketed as Actiphage and can also be used as a highly sensitive quality assurance test in milk and dairy products.

The Royal Dairy Innovation recognises research and development in the field of dairy farming and is awarded for the most practical, relevant product or service which is, or likely to be the most significant innovation for the future.

Dr Rees says: “We are delighted to have our work recognised by this award. As academic scientists, it is very exciting to see our findings having direct impact in the wider world. We are looking forward to exploring how else our test can be exploited to help us manage diseases caused by this important group of bacteria.”

This is the latest in a string of awards this technique has won including local business awards and a Canadian innovation award. Mark Hammond, CEO of PBD Biotech said: “We are delighted that our technology is now able to help the dairy industry detect Mycobacteria in both livestock and dairy products worldwide and we look forward to working with vets and farmers in the future to help tackle these important diseases”.

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