the use of miRNAs for TB diagnosis

Project Details


Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is an infectious, notifiable bacterial disease of cattle with an enormous welfare and economic cost. It is major challenge facing large parts of the UK dairy and beef farming industries, and eradication has proven elusive despite decades of a strict government backed test and cull regime. Control measures cost the livestock industry and government millions of pounds a year, as well as garnering high levels of public and media controversy. The disease is not restricted to cattle, and can infect badgers, deer, camelids, goats, pigs, dogs, and cats. There is also a zoonotic potential with transmission to humans being a risk for a proportion of the population.
As one of the UK's most challenging animal health issues, the current method of screening is antiquated, first developed in the 1900s and adapted widely by governments the 1940s, the skin reaction test is notoriously unreliable with false positives (known as ‘inconclusive reactors’ or IRs) being common. There is an imperative market need for an innovative and accurate method of diagnosis to allow effective herd management and support eradication and vaccination policies.
In our previous study, we successfully demonstrated the use of microRNA (miRNA) biomarkers as a novel diagnostic approach to the detection of Johne’s disease, another infectious, wasting disease of high economic importance in the same mycobacterial family as bTB. Now, using this ingenious approach, we can increase the potential reach and applicability of this innovative technology to bTB. The miRNA technology has a focus on the bovine host response to infection which allows early-stage diagnosis and is not affected by concurrent disease status. Additionally, the technology has the potential to dovetail into current bTB vaccine research trials by distinguishing between bTB vaccinated and true bTB cases, where at present 80% of vaccinated cattle present as false positives to the current tuberculin test. The advantages of this successful application of our technology would be hugely significant in terms of welfare, increased productivity, sustainability of the agricultural sector, protection of consumer safety and in broader economic terms to the English and, in fact, global cattle industry.
Effective start/end date1/02/2431/01/25


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