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30 July, 2019 - 20:00 By Kate Sweeney

US lab trials Suffolk tech to spot infectious cattle disease

The Animal Health Laboratory in the Colorado Department of Agriculture is assisting in a trial of Actiphage®, a new rapid blood test for bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) developed by Suffolk startup PBD Biotech that detects early-stage infection in cattle and other animals.

TB is a contagious and infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium bovis. It primarily affects cattle, but in the US is known to infect bison, deer, elk and other warm-blooded species. In very rare cases, the disease can also be transmitted to humans through direct contact with infected animals or consumption of raw milk.

The Colorado Animal Health Lab, an ISO 17025 accredited laboratory, aims to determine the accuracy of the new Actiphage test, particularly in detecting the disease at an early stage, which will assist in the control of infection.

A large number of cattle enter the US from Mexico – some 1.5 million head per year – and traces of bTB have been detected in this border region over the last 18 months. 

The pilot study will initially use Actiphage to test blood samples from cattle that have been highlighted as having a high risk of infection. The trial will be an exploratory project under lab manager Tiffany Brigner with a permit granted by the Center for Veterinary Biologics, an agency of the USDA. 

Brigner explains: “The control of bTB is very important. Having an assay that can detect bTB quickly and accurately would aid in mitigating the spread of this contagious disease.”

Robert Lyons is director of North American operations for PBD Biotech, which has developed Actiphage. He says the Colorado trial will provide important independent validation of the test, building on the its US patent which came into effect earlier this month.

He said: “Actiphage can be used to detect bTB and Johne’s disease in blood or milk samples and has been effectively used in bTB eradication strategies leading to its approval for exceptional private use in cattle in the UK under the Government’s Animal and Plant Health Agency protocol. 

“A trial on this scale will help us to further improve the diagnostic and provide insights into the aetiology of the disease within large herds.”

It comes as the test’s unique, rapid biotechnology is awarded a US patent, to match the key patent awarded by the European Patent Office in 2018.

Actiphage offers vets, farmers, zoology and exotic species experts, food manufacturers and others a rapid tool for early detection of live bacteria, facilitating improved food safety as well as containment and control of the disease.

The company was shortlisted in the Business Weekly Awards in March.

• Photograph by Alaina McLearnon on Unsplash

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