Belfast Telegraph

QUB team leads the field for livestock disease testing kits

By David Elliott

Queen's University is to be instrumental in developing a test for a disease which costs the livestock industry in Northern Ireland thousands of pounds each year.

It's part of a €900,000 (£760,000) Irish-American research project charged with developing a test for Bovine Respiratory Disease, more commonly known as pneumonia, in collaboration with two other research organisations, the Tyndall National Institute in Cork and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

They are hoping to come up with a kit which can easily and reliably identify affected animals, a move which would allow them to be removed from the herd to help prevent the spread of the contagious disease.

It's hoped the kit will identify it 15 days, or maybe even even minutes of testing.

"This unique research partnership is an important step towards the control of BRD-related infections, and will be of major benefit to farmers who incur huge losses through reduced animal performance, increased treatment costs and animal death," said Dr Mark Mooney, from the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen's.

"Queen's new Institute for Global Food Security is fast becoming a world leader in the development of new techniques to improve animal health and secure the safety of the food supply chain, and participation in the AgriSense project is a key component of our future research strategy."

BRD accounts for over 30% of death in calves in Northern Ireland and is the most significant cause of deaths in calves under five months, according to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

It said that not only do calves die, but many do not fully recover from infection resulting in poor growth performance and increased susceptibility to other diseases.

The cost of this disease to the farmer includes treatment costs, mortality costs and extra labour costs.

Professor Eric Vogel of Georgia Institute of Technology, said: "Our system will involve complementary sensor technologies developed at Georgia Tech and Tyndall reducing false positive/negative results and achieving a more robust diagnostic device.

"BRD is also recognised as the leading natural cause of death in US beef and dairy herds with a total economic cost to the US agri-food industry of up to $2bn (£1.3bn)."

The sensors will be fabricated on disposable plastic testers to keep costs down.

It is hoped that early detection and diagnosis will enable infected cattle to be isolated and could also facilitate more tailored treatment programmes eradicating the current practice of costly indiscriminate dosing to stop the spread of infection.



Belfast Telegraph