To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what the timetable is for the introduction of the improved testing methods for (a) bovine tuberculosis testing and (b) Phage.
8 June 2018
Research is underway to develop an improved version of the tuberculin skin test, and Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) is facilitating the provision of samples to companies who wish to validate their test but until this work is concluded successfully it is not possible to set a timetable for the introduction of new tests.
From April 2016, new breakdown herds in the High risk Area (HRA) regardless of post-mortem or laboratory culture results require two consecutive short interval herd tests with negative results, read under ‘severe’ interpretation, before restrictions are lifted. This measure reduces the risk of leaving TB infected cattle in de-restricted herds.
Since April 2017, the more sensitive interferon-gamma test has been used (alongside the skin test) to help resolve TB breakdowns with lesion and/or culture positive animals in the HRA, in certain circumstances.
Farmers in England can, via a private veterinarian and with prior APHA approval, submit blood samples for TB testing to an APHA laboratory at their own expense where farmers seek additional assurances as to the TB-free status of animals over and above those afforded by statutory testing.
I have held discussions with the developers of a so called "Phage test" and Defra officials have assisted them by giving them information about the authorisation process for their concept.