© AgMedia Inc.
by TREENA HEIN
University of Calgary scientists say they have found a way to test for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in live animals using a simple blood test.
Lianne Appleby, a spokesperson with the Ontario Cattlemen’s Association says the test might increase access to some foreign markets and reduce processing costs, if it were eventually developed and approved. “But, a live test without the resulting reduction in packing plant costs and age discounts would not be of benefit to our producers.”
Appleby also points out that, “While at OCA we do believe in the merits of exploring new technologies, we have to be mindful that this live test is neither proven nor approved right now.”
The researchers say their live test could detect BSE in cattle and chronic wasting disease in elk at least six months before clinical signs of disease are displayed, a development which could potentially lead to revolutionary changes in beef inspection protocols worldwide.
Once marketed, this test would provide an alternative to the current method of post-mortem diagnosis, which uses brain tissue samples from dead animals.
Canadian Cattlemen's Association spokesperson Rob McNabb says the cattle industry is "cautiously optimistic" about the test. “The concept of a live animal test for prion disease is certainly not new. Some of them have been halted because false positives were a concern.”
He says the undertaking has potential. But unless it’s “extremely accurate” in terms of false positives or negatives, “we won’t have really achieved our ultimate objective – demonstrating the eradication of the disease and lifting the current regulatory requirements, such as the enhanced feed ban and removal and disposal of specified risk materials.”
This new live-animal blood test builds on studies conducted by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the Federal Research Institute for Animal Health and the University of Gottinghen, Germany. BF