Suffolk firm behind ‘promising’ new TB test for cattle hopes to free farms of devastating disease

Dr Berwyn Clarke, chief executive of PBD Biotech Picture: PBD BIOTECH

Dr Berwyn Clarke, chief executive of PBD Biotech Picture: PBD BIOTECH - Credit: PBD Biotech

The Suffolk firm behind a new product for detecting TB in cattle is celebrating a major milestone after getting the official thumbs-up for its limited use.

Drs Cath Rees and Ben Swift, co-founders of PBD Biotech, who discovered the Actiphage technology Pic

Drs Cath Rees and Ben Swift, co-founders of PBD Biotech, who discovered the Actiphage technology Picture: PBD BIOTECH - Credit: PBD Biotech

Actiphage, a new highly sensitive and specific blood test, has been accepted for exceptional private use in England under an Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) protocol.

The test was launched in November by PBD Biotech, based at Thurston, near Bury St Edmunds. Chief executive Dr Berwyn Clarke said it was a significant step forward.

“In situations where a farm has had an ongoing chronic bovine TB problem, APHA’s protocol offers a promising new approach to controlling the infection,” he said.

“Actiphage is now included within a series of measures that farmers can use in conjunction with their vet and with specific APHA approval as a means to improving their disease management strategy. For many farms that have been struggling for years it provides the first step to becoming TB free. This move by the APHA is a really positive step towards tackling this devastating disease.”

Blood testing using the Actiphage test Picture: PBD BIOTECH

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


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Devon-based vet Dick Sibley incorporated Actiphage into a disease management strategy last autumn to help clear a dairy herd that had been stricken with TB since 2012.

Mr Sibley said: “The approach of directly measuring the presence of live bacteria in the blood in just six hours is a totally different but complementary measurement to other technologies and has enabled enhanced testing, early detection and containment of the infected animals.

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“We don’t have all of the answers yet, but it’s about predicting, preventing and managing what we can – and Actiphage has contributed greatly to the outcome we’ve been after for so long.”

The Exceptional private use of non-validated tests for TB on cattle in England protocol enables any private vet to request APHA permission for exceptional use of Actiphage and the other non-validated tests, subject to certain criteria. But the test will require further testing before it is officially approved for standard veterinary use in the UK. Under the APHA protocol it is now permitted for private use where herds have experienced persistent breakdowns and it is hoped this will contribute to the evidence base needed for official validation.

Dr Berwyn Clarke, PBD Biotech Picture: BERWYN CLARKE

Dr Berwyn Clarke, PBD Biotech Picture: BERWYN CLARKE - Credit: Archant

The test will be profiled in the Innovation Hub at the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Show on June 27 and 28.

PBD Biotech's testing kit Picture: PBD BIOTECH

PBD Biotech's testing kit Picture: PBD BIOTECH - Credit: Archant

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