Farms stricken by bovine TB can now access a rapid detection test at a reduced cost, after the government issued new guidelines on the use of non-validated tests.
Suffolk-based company PBD Biotech launched Actiphage in 2017 and it won the Royal Dairy Innovation Award at Dairy Tech 2019. It promises to detect infection at a very early stage and gives results within hours, with greater accuracy than the current TB skin test.
The test is approved for use but currently as a non-validated test in herds suffering chronic bTB breakdowns. The company says it requires more farmers to trial it in order to gain validation from the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
Uptake of the test, however, has been hindered by restrictions over trials and uncertainties about approvals and compensation.
In November, the Welsh Government clarified how vets and farmers can gain permission to use non-validated bTB tests. A similar protocol for cattle herds in England was issued by the UK Government in 2018. The Animal and Plant Health Agency included Actiphage in its list of tests for exceptional private use in cattle herds with chronic bTB infections in England.
The chief veterinary officer for Wales has now granted permission for the test to be trialled on Mossman Farm near Llangrannog, Ceredigion, which has lost more than 300 cows in the past three years, according to BBC News.
Actiphage has already been used as part of a successful private eradication programme at Gatcombe dairy farm in Devon, which had been under restrictions for five years due to bTB.
PBD Biotech’s CEO Mark Hammond said: “Vets have been keen to use Actiphage, but uncertainty over approvals and compensation have hindered this. Now the guidelines offer clearer understanding and we are keen to support farmers and vets with trials, particularly where the data can be used as part of our pathway to OIE validation for the Actiphage test.”
The APHA has confirmed that within a non-validated trial, if a positive result is confirmed with statutory tests, animals will be removed with compensation as normal.
Farms that meet the criteria set by government regulations can benefit from reduced cost testing to support the trials. Dairy farmers are invited to discuss the options with Mark Hammond at Dairy Tech 2020.