A vet gives a TB test to a cow in a crush© David Hartley/REX/Shutterstock

A bovine tuberculosis test claiming to give rapid and highly accurate results in just six hours is set to hit the UK cattle industry.

Research kits for the test, which detects bacteria in blood and milk directly, will be available at the end of November, said manufacturer PBD Biotech.

Results from the test, Actiphage TB, are more specific due to detecting bacteria rather than the current skin test that uses the animal’s immune response, taking three days.

The phage test brings greater accuracy compared with the skin test, which can miss up to 20% of animals, said PBD Biotech co-founders Cath Rees and Ben Swift, who conducted the work at the University of Nottingham.

See also: Defra promises fewer bovine TB tests under new plans

Wider Industry Use

  • Improve food quality assurance by detection in milk or dairy products
  • Screening measure for farmgate or unpasteurised milk sales
  • Use for pre-movement testing
  • Use for routine testing

Trial work

Early West Country trial results by Devon veterinarian Dick Sibley detected TB in blood, milk and faeces months before the skin test gave a positive result.

He used a combination of a phage test, a polymerase chain reaction faeces test, strict biosecurity and hygiene measures to identify high-risk animals.

This found cows thought to be healthy under the skin test had actually been TB carriers.

Further trial work is planned to start soon in France, Canada and the US.

Latest TB slaughter statistics for the year ending July 2017 show that 31,127 animals were slaughtered in England and 9,831 in Wales, a 5% and 4% increase on the year respectively.