Action to enhance existing testing for TB in cattle was announced today by Ben Bradshaw, Minister for Animal Health and Welfare.
Mr Bradshaw published:
- details of how the gamma interferon blood test will be used more extensively alongside the skin test to improve the sensitivity of the testing regime and identify more infected animals more quickly.
- a report on Bovine TB testing procedures in England and Wales, and
- the conclusions of the Chief Veterinary Officer’s review into the fall in the number of new TB incidents in Great Britain.
Mr Bradshaw said: “Our cattle testing programme is a crucial part of our efforts to reduce bovine TB. The tuberculin test is, and will remain, central to TB cattle controls, but we can improve our testing regime by making greater use of the gamma interferon blood test. Therefore, from October we will treble the number of gamma interferon tests that are carried out and target them on those herds where they will deliver the greatest impact.
“The tuberculin test is effective when carried out properly. DNV Consulting’s report on our current procedures provides welcome assurance about the overall effectiveness of the national testing programme. However, some of the evidence about the degree to which individuals depart from testing procedures highlights a need for corrective action. The State Veterinary Service will be reviewing existing training procedures and tightening up the management of both its own staff and private vets contracted to carry out TB testing. I would urge the veterinary profession to work with us to raise the standard of TB testing in GB.”
Debby Reynolds, the Chief Veterinary Officer, who was asked by Ben Bradshaw in June to undertake a review of the apparent fall in the number of new TB incidents, has concluded that there has been a real reduction in the number of new TB incidents, but that it is too early to determine whether this is a temporary phenomenon or likely to become a sustained trend. Dr Reynolds has considered whether the switch in tuberculin supply from that manufactured by the Veterinary Laboratories Agency to that purchased from Holland could have caused this reduction. She has concluded that the small difference in performance between the two tuberculins is not significant enough on its own to have had such a significant impact, particularly against the background of the evidence in the DNV Consulting report about the variation in the way the test is carried out. Further analysis will be carried out to try to reduce the level of uncertainty around these conclusions.
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