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APHA grants access to new tests for chronic TB breakdowns

20 June 2018, at 12:00am

A new highly sensitive and specific blood test for bovine TB, Actiphage, has been accepted for exceptional private use in England, according to an APHA protocol published on 8 May 2018.

Berwyn Clarke, CEO of PBD Biotech, which has developed the bacteriophage-based detection method, explains that this is 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.

“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.” Much of this new strategy, as part of a private TB eradication plan, has been driven by the success of vet Dick Sibley, who incorporated Actiphage into a disease management strategy last autumn to help clear a dairy herd that had been stricken with TB since 2012.

Dick 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.”

The exceptional private use of non-validated tests for TB on cattle in England protocol enables any private veterinary surgeon to request APHA permission for exceptional use of Actiphage and the other non-validated tests, subject to certain criteria that include herd supplementary interferon-γ (IFN-γ) testing, discussions with the APHA case vet and the farmer’s written consent.

Berwyn added: “We are working with international governments, and the test is being trialled on bovine, ovine as well as exotic species, but we appreciate it is new to the UK market so we’re keen to answer any queries vets or farmers may have.”

Actiphage will require further testing before it is officially approved for standard veterinary use in the UK, but under the APHA protocol it is now permitted for private use where herds have experienced persistent breakdowns and this will contribute to the evidence-base required for official validation by the OIE and acceptance by APHA.