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Thurston's PBD Biotech takes its testing process overseas to aid the Canadian wild bison

A test which is used to provide early detection of TB in cattle is being used in a scientific study to help protect Canada’s wild bison population.

Actiphage, developed by Thurston based PBD Biotech, is one of the diagnostic tools being used in a study which is being carried out in Wood Buffalo National Park where bison herds include TB infected animals.

While there has been a successful Canadian bovine TB control programme running since 1924 this disease detection testing could support the management of infected animals and help reduce the prevalence of the disease over time.

Plains bison in Canada (30030900)
Plains bison in Canada (30030900)

Actiphage is a rapid accurate test for detecting even very low levels of mycobacteria - the bacteria which causes TB - from blood or milk samples and results are available within hours.

Mark Hammond, CEO of PBD Biotech, said: “ We welcome this study which will help to further validate the use of Actiphage.

“The test uses a bacteriophage that detects viable mycobacteria in the blood before an immune response is fully developed. This enables early detection of disease in livestock, wildlife or exotic species in zoos creating the opportunity to prevent the unnecessary cull of animals.”

Preparing blood samples for Actiphage testing (30030950)
Preparing blood samples for Actiphage testing (30030950)

The Canadian team will experimentally infect bison at a specialist containment facility and test them at various points to examine the progression of the disease and the reliability of the tests in bison. It will also examine whether vaccines which have proved effective in cattle can also protect bison.

UK and Welsh governments have already issued protocols setting out conditions where the Actiphage and other non validated tests can be used on cattle herds suffering chronic TB breakdowns. This latest study, pending regulatory approval, will help to show that the test can also be used with wildlife, in zoos and on other species to support disease eradication and control.