Bovine tuberculosis is a devastating disease that poses a major threat to beef and dairy industries across the world.
But now in Bond Digital Health we are using our innovative technology to lead the fight against bovine TB as part of a pioneering international consortium.
So far, attempts to eradicate the infectious respiratory disease have cost UK taxpayers tens of millions of pounds every year and have caused huge economic and emotional damage to farming communities and society.
In Wales alone last year more than 10,000 cattle were slaughtered as a result of bovine TB, both infected herds and herds that might not have been infected but tested positive or showed symptoms.
Efforts to halt the spread of the disease included the trapping and culling of wild animals, mainly badgers, if they tested positive. Figures released by Defra reveal that the recent badger cull alone cost more than £380,000 and in fact resulted in just five badgers killed in Wales in 2017 — that is a cost of £76,662 for each badger killed.
Governments are also working to eradicate bovine TB using a rigorous testing programme, but the results of the most commonly used tests are highly subjective.
As a result, when a test result appears positive, cattle herds must be quarantined and then re-tested after 60 days. It has been estimated that up to 40% of cattle are being needlessly slaughtered as a result of false positive test results. This represents a massive economic and emotional cost to farmers and affects long-term planning. According to Defra, the average cost of a bovine TB outbreak on a farm is £35,000 with governments having to absorb more than half of this cost — around £20,000 per farm.
It’s clear a better solution is needed, which is why Bond Digital Health has helped set up an international collaborative project between universities and businesses that is working to develop a more accurate test and associated computerised infrastructure for bovine TB.
Our vision is to develop a new, cost-effective, accurate and rapid point-of-care test to enable the detection, management and control of bovine TB, directly supporting the Welsh and UK governments’ ambitions to eradicate the disease completely achieving OTF (Officially TB Free) status nationwide.
Using Bond’s technological expertise, we will develop a system that provides virtually instant results in real time. Each animal will be immediately processed, scanned and tested on-site and the data will be immediately and automatically uploaded to a secure cloud-based database for analysis.
Results will be fed back simultaneously to the farmer and appropriate authorities for any intervention required. This will allow more accurate monitoring and the development of an improved disease management strategy.
The consortium includes academics at Aberystwyth University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (Ibers) and University College Dublin, as well as life sciences businesses Sona Nanotech, ProTEM and Dynamic Extractions.
We officially launched the consortium at the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show in Llanelwedd last week on Monday, 23rd of July. The Royal Welsh is Europe’s largest agricultural show, attracting more than 200,000 visitors across four days, making it the ideal forum for us to share the details of our project.
There was much interest in our proposals, including from farmers directly affected by the disease, from politicians whose communities have been affected, and even from lawyers who have represented affected farmers in their fight for compensation.
Introducing the consortium at the Aberystwyth University pavilion, professor Mike Gooding, director of Ibers, spoke of his personal experience of bovine TB both in his current role at Aberystwyth University, which has 450 cattle, and in a previous job at Reading University, which had 600 cattle.
He said: “We need to address animal health in a significant way. I have suffered greatly from false positive TB tests, both at Reading and Aberystwyth. It causes a lot of anxiety and stress. If we are going to control and manage bovine TB, we need a rapid and reliable point-of-farm test.”
“If we are going to control and manage bovine TB, we need a rapid and reliable point of farm test.”
Professor Gooding said the test proposed by our consortium could make a “big difference” to the management of healthy herds and to how rapidly authorities could respond to genuine cases of bovine TB.
“The farming industry has been crying out for this for the last 15 years,” he added.
We have also been encouraged by a letter from Dr Christianne Glossop, Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales, in response to pour proposals.
She wrote: “We are taking a keen interest in all developments in respect of new TB tests and we welcome innovative approaches. The potential uses of a validated test to be developed by this consortium is exciting, not only for the Wales TB Eradication Programme with the prospect of achieving OTF (Officially TB Free) status earlier; but on a worldwide scale, both in terms of Bovine TB and Human TB. The success of this project could put Wales firmly on the global map.”
“The success of this project could put Wales firmly on the global map.”
Bond is proud to be leading efforts to break through the disease detection barrier in cattle. We are certain that our consortium has the scientific expertise and the cutting-edge technology to develop an effective and scalable solution to this serious global problem.
To learn more about this project or if you are looking to invest, please get in touch.