4 December 1998

Live BSEtest is claimed

A LEADING scientist claims to have discovered a live test to identify BSE-infected cattle before they show signs of the disease.

Chris Pomfrett, a human health researcher from Manchester University, claims that BSE-infected cattle have a specific heart rate pattern which differs from the heart rate of healthy cattle.

Infected cattle can be identified using a computerised monitor to measure heart rate, said Dr Pomfrett. The equipment used is straight-forward, requires no chemicals, and could allow vets to test live animals in five minutes.

"The test looks at the heart rate in high resolution using a computer, which any vet with the right equipment can compete," he added.

Dr Pomfrett has teamed up with BTG, a world leader in the management of intellectual property rights, in an effort to launch the technique on a commercial basis.

The company believes the BSE live test could be adapted to identify scrapie in sheep and even new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans.

Jessica Buss

If the test proves animals are BSE-free, it could also exempt carcasses from EU controls designed to keep specified risk materials out of the human food chain.