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Northern Ireland’s TB status could be helped by new Actiphage test
Actiphage directly detects and identifies the bacteria responsible for causing TB.

DAERA urged to take all relevant steps to improve current TB testing in Northern Ireland

PBD Biotech, a UK-based diagnostic technology company, has developed a new bovine TB test which could help the TB status in Northern Ireland.

Actiphage, a rapid diagnostic test, directly detects and identifies the bacteria responsible for causing TB infection. This is different from other TB tests which rely on an immune response. Trials of Actiphage have consistently confirmed the test’s ability to detect the bacteria in both milk and blood at less than 10 cells per sample.

Yesterday’s (27 November 2018) Northern Ireland Audit Office Report concluded that all relevant steps to improve the current bovine TB testing regimen in Northern Ireland should be taken by the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

In October 2018, DAERA met with PBD Biotech to explore how the Actiphage test could be incorporated into their TB eradication programme.

Commenting on yesterday’s Audit Office Report, Dr Berwyn Clarke, PBD Biotech’s chief executive, said: “It is vital that this hidden reservoir of infection is eradicated; otherwise, all other interventions will have very little benefit. And the unreliability of the tests cast doubt on whether TB-free status is genuinely the case.”

Actiphage has already been included in the UK Government’s ‘exceptional private use’ policy for chronic TB breakdowns in England. This development was guided by Actiphage’s field validation during studies performed by farm animal vet, Dick Sibley. Sibly previously helped to clear a dairy herd in Devon that had been infected with TB by integrating Actiphage into a disease management programme.

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Stephen Fry lends voice to frog conservation film

News Story 1
 Comedian and author Stephen Fry has lent his voice to a new animation that hopes to raise awareness of deadly ranavirus, which is threatening the UK’s frogs.

Research by ZSL, who created the short film, suggests that at least 20 per cent of ranavirus cases over the past three decades, could be attributed to human introductions. This includes pond owners introducing fish, frog spawn and plants from other environments.

Amphibian disease expert Dr Stephen Price said: “People can help stop the spread by avoiding moving potentially infected material such as spawn, tadpoles, pond water and plants into their own pond. Disinfecting footwear or pond nets before using them elsewhere will also help.” 

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Scotland to fund OV training

The Scottish Government has revealed it will fund training for new Official Veterinarians (OVs), covering the Essential Skills, Statutory Surveillance and TB Testing.

Funding will also be provided for the revalidation of Essential Skills, as well as TB Testing for existing OVs. This is the second round of financial support from the Scottish Government for OVs.

BVA president Simon Doherty said he is “delighted” with the announcement.

“Official Veterinarians’ work in safeguarding animal health and welfare and ensuring food safety is invaluable,” he added. “This announcement has come at a crucial time, with Brexit and an uncertain future ahead, the role of OVs will be more important than ever in enabling the UK’s trade in animal products.