The same technology used to detect Covid-19 in wastewater is now being used to help dairy farmers manage Johne's disease in their herd.
The new test is said to be both more rapid and sensitive in detecting the infectious agent (MAP) of Johne’s in veterinary specimens.
It is showing greater detection capability than the milk-ELISA test that is currently used. Crucially, it detects live infectious agent, not just antibodies against MAP as are detected by milk-ELISA.
In a recent study, the new test was able to detect more infected animals by milk testing than milk-ELISA, so could potentially facilitate control of Johne’s faster.
As well as bovine milk, the new test can also be applied to faeces and blood from livestock.
The test was developed by Professor Irene Grant and her post-doctoral researcher Dr Antonio Foddai at IGFS and their research was published in the open-access journal Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology. They hope to now move to the applied stage of the science with further development and validation of their test for MAP infection at farm level.
“As farmers will know, Johne’s disease is an endemic animal health issue worldwide, particularly in dairy herds,” Prof Grant says.
“It is certainly present in Northern Ireland dairy herds, but the true prevalence of Johne’s in the local context is not accurately known.”
Grant is hopeful the new test will offer more accurate, rapid and quantitative results.
“This will therefore help farmers and vets make more informed decisions about the infection status of animals in order to control the disease more effectively within herds,” she adds.
“I also hope it will generate more accurate data on the prevalence of Johne’s within Northern Ireland and therefore build a better picture of this animal-health problem.”