The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) is to expand the use of PCR tests to confirm bovine tuberculosis (bTB) infection.
From 14 February 2024, the tests will be used in England, Wales and Scotland on post-mortem tissue samples from cattle that have tested positive for bTB, direct contacts, and privately or compulsory slaughtered or dead animals with an inconclusive skin test result.
The expansion follows an initial rollout which has seen PCR tests used since March 2022 in a limited number of situations, including slaughterhouse cases in cattle and non-bovines, and for domestic pets and exotics submitted to APHA for laboratory investigation.
PCR tests allow APHA laboratories to send results back to livestock keepers in three weeks. In comparison, microbiological culture tests can take up to 22 weeks. APHA hopes that this will allow herd movement restrictions to be lifted sooner than they previously would have been in certain situations.
Ele Brown, UK deputy chief veterinary officer, said: “Timely and reliable testing is essential in halting the spread of this insidious disease in animals, and the initial rollout of the PCR test has shown a tenfold improvement in testing turnaround time.”
David Holdsworth, APHA chief executive, added: “We know waiting for TB results can be a stressful time for farmers so reducing the time for results to be delivered has been a key focus for APHA.
“I am pleased that we have progressed to rolling out the PCR test to cover even more bovine TB samples and cut the time it takes to report these crucial results to livestock keepers to just three weeks.”
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