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New rapid diagnostic test under development to combat sheep scab

03 June 2019, at 9:00am

Scientists at Moredun are currently developing a rapid, point of care diagnostic blood test for sheep scab infestation.

Moredun has now entered into a collaboration with Global DX (a developer of point of care veterinary diagnostic tests) to complete the development and validation of the test. Use of the test by veterinarians would enable them to rapidly diagnose sheep scab infestation before the appearance of clinical signs and importantly, without the need to send blood samples to a laboratory for analysis. Both of these points are highly important as they will allow for early interventions and treatments, thereby reducing the spread of disease.

Sheep scab, caused by infestation with the parasitic mite Psoroptes ovis, is endemic in the UK and occurs in many sheep producing regions throughout the world. The disease is notifiable in Scotland. Sheep scab is a significant welfare problem and impacts on the productivity of sheep farms.

During the early stages of sheep scab, infestations are not obvious and animals often appear clinically normal. This sub-clinical stage can last for several weeks during which time animals can act as a source of infestation for other sheep. For control or eradication programs to be successful, it is crucial that all infested animals are identified as quickly as possible, including sub-clinical cases. Results from a pen-side diagnostic are almost immediate, the new point of care test format will, therefore, significantly speed up the testing process.

Many pathogens may be responsible for itchy sheep. This test is highly specific as it detects host antibodies to a specific protein found only in the sheep scab mite, which means that the test can accurately detect that an infestation is due to the scab mite and not another ectoparasite. This is critical both for early intervention and in the administration of the correct treatment.

Dr Stewart Burgess who is developing the diagnostic test at Moredun commented: “We are delighted to collaborate with Global DX to further develop this test; the company has significant experience in the development and commercialisation of point of care tests for the veterinary market.”

Andrew Shepherd, Founder and CEO of Global DX said: “We are delighted to collaborate with Moredun to bring the new test to market enabling the sheep industry to combat sheep scab infestation in their flocks.”