Wild bison set to be tested for TB using new blood test

A plains bison, in Parc Omega, Canada Picture: LUIS VALIENTE/PIXABAY

A plains bison, in Parc Omega, Canada Picture: LUIS VALIENTE/PIXABAY - Credit: Archant

Canadian scientists are set to try out a new test for a devastating cattle disease – developed by a Suffolk company – on the country’s wild bison population.

Blood testing using the Actiphage test Picture: PBD BIOTECH

Blood testing using the Actiphage test Picture: PBD BIOTECH - Credit: PBD Biotech

The new study will evaluate the potential of PBD Biotech's Actiphage blood test to help improve detection and management of bovine TB in the herds.

The diagnostics firm, based at Thurston, near Bury St Edmunds, has developed a test which it says can detect even very low levels of mycobacteria - the bacteria that causes TB - from a blood or milk sample.

MORE - The East Anglian firm whose scientific breakthrough could beat one of the world's most devastating diseasesWhile a successful Canadian bovine TB control programme has been in place since 1924, bison herds in Wood Buffalo National Park - which straddles the Alberta-Northwest Territories border - include TB-infected animals.

The Actiphage test has been successfully tried out in humans and 20 species of animals, but never before in wild bison.

PBD Biotech's Actiphage test for TB Picture: SI BARBER/PBD BIOTECH

PBD Biotech's Actiphage test for TB Picture: SI BARBER/PBD BIOTECH - Credit: Archant

Volker Gerdts, director of the University of Saskatchewan's Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac), said: "Detecting tuberculosis in livestock and wild animals is an issue worldwide, and this trial will provide scientific data that has the potential to improve detection and control of a disease that can be devastating to the agricultural industry."


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The scientists, who want to maintain the country's bovine TB-free status, are conducting trials of several diagnostic tools, including the Actiphage blood test.

The Canadian team will experimentally infect bison in VIDO-InterVac's containment level 3 facility and test them at various time points using several diagnostic tools to show the progression of the disease and reliability of the tests in bison.

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PBD Biotech chief executive Mark Hammond welcomed the study. "The test uses a bacteriophage that detects viable mycobacteria in the blood before an immune response is fully developed. This enables early detection of disease in livestock, wildlife or exotic species in zoos creating the opportunity to prevent the unnecessary cull of animals," he said.

The team of scientists also plans to test whether vaccines proven effective in cattle can protect the bison.

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