The federal government will fund the search for a new and improved diagnostic test for bovine tuberculosis, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz has announced.
The goal is to find a blood-based screening test for TB that is as good or better than the caudal fold test that has been in use since 1885, said Louis Desautels, a veterinarian with the Canadian Cattlemen s Association (CCA).
The association will receive nearly $320,000 from the Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program to evaluate alternatives that are more reliable and cost effective than the current tuberculin skin test. The current test is often criticized because it detects TB via an allergic reaction, but the allergic reaction can vary from 80 to 100 per cent, depending on the skill of the person doing the examination, said Desautels.
A reliable blood test might allow better surveillance in wildlife, as well as in livestock packing plants and for cattle exports.
You can take your blood and go home, and you can get same-day results, said Desautels. You don t have to wait three to four days while somebody figures out what s going on.
The CCA will work with regulatory agencies such as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to design and provide input for the evaluation study. The study will compare the accuracy of rapid blood tests developed by five private companies. About 5,000 tests will be conducted on positive test samples taken from the USDA s serum bank and from samples collected in Canada, the U.K., Mexico and New Zealand. The difficulty in accessing large numbers of TB-positive blood samples has hindered the search for a better test, said Desautels. He noted the disease is actually very rare worldwide and that if samples were sourced only from Canada, it would have taken decades to gather enough TB-positive blood for the study.
Also, having animal health agencies involved from the start means that if a suitable test is found, it could be implemented much faster than if the CCA had done the study by itself.
The announcement was welcomed by Rossburn-area rancher Rodney Checkowski, who has twice been convicted on charges related to TB testing in the Riding Mountain Eradication Area. He has written Ritz to complain that repeated injections of tuberculin with the caudal fold test were making his animals sick A better test is long overdue given there have been no advances in testing technology for more than a century.
We are not against testing cattle, he said. I am all for it. But let s do an accurate test that doesn t hurt the animals.
In this day and age, with all this technology,don t give me this bullshit that we ve got to usea test that has been around for 120 years.