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Bovine TB

Posted: 30 January 2020

Posted In: | Case Studies |


Fast accurate early detection of Bovine Tuberculosis in cattle and badgers using our non-invasive 'sniffing' technology to assess the air in badgers' setts and cattle's breath for the disease.

In the UK the topic of cattle herds being infected with bovine TB is rarely out of the newspapers such is the devastation that can be caused to farming businesses by such infections. Some researchers now estimate that more than 50 million cattle are infected with Mycobacterium bovis worldwide; the potential for huge economic losses is high. Currently the diagnosis of tuberculosis in cattle is done by tuberculin skin testing.

However the continued failure to eradicate bovine TB in the UK is probably due to a reservoir of the infection in badgers although this cannot be quantified as these animals can only be tested after death. The badger and its sett are protected under legislation in the UK and so an accurate non-invasive test for badgers is needed urgently to determine the true extent of the reservoir of infection cheaply and without harming badgers. For cattle it would also be desirable to have a rapid, inexpensive on-farm test to complement the existing tests.

Work has been done to evaluate our VOC sampling & analysis technology to diagnose infection in cattle and badgers with M. bovis, using a serum sample.  Samples were taken from both experimentally infected badgers and cattle, as well as naturally infected badgers. In every case our instruments were able to discriminate infected animals from controls as early as 3 weeks after infection with M. bovis.

These experiment were carried out before our latest generation of sensors and analysers were developed.  We believe the use of RoboScientific instruments offers outstanding potential as a sensitive, rapid, and cost-effective means of diagnosing bovine TB infections in cattle and badgers.

Fast non-invasive detection of Bovine TB in real time

A small feasibility trial of our technology on two separate herds of dairy cattle was undertaken in the UK.  The test results of samples taken from the sputum of these cows was compared to the established skin test for Bovine TB on the same cows.  Our sputum tests  accurately reproduced the results  of the skin tests, and were delivered in minutes, not days.  To ensure the reliability of this test as an alternative dagnostic tool, we need to undertake extensive trials over a much greater number of cows in a varity of conditions.

The graph shown here on the right illustrates our results with the infected cows featured as red dots on the graph, the 'clean' uninfected cattle are featured as green dots - you can see they are clearly differentiated.  

We also identified a third group of cattle, which are illustrated here as amber dots.  We have yet to undertake conclusive work to identify what these specify, but there is the potential that this group of cattle could be  those cattle in the herd whichare notexhibiting any symptoms of the disease, but despite this, are shedding the disease and so infecting the 'clean' cattle.