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Research reveals new clue in fight against TB in cattle

   
   

Dairy-Cows

22 May 2012 12:09:34.457

PA 137/12

The failure of the current bovine tuberculosis (TB) eradication programme could be partly due to a parasitic worm that hinders the tests used to diagnose TB in cows, according to new research published this week.

Scientists at The Universities of Nottingham and Liverpool have discovered that a parasitic flatworm often found in cattle reduces the sensitivity of skin tests used to diagnose TB in the animals. The flatworm is called Fasciola hepatica, otherwise known as the common liver fluke.

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Bovine TB is a bacterial disease that in 2011 resulted in the slaughter of approximately 25,000 cattle in England, at a cost to the country of more than £90 million. Solutions for eradicating the infection have included badger culling, but new research, published in Nature Communications, now suggests that the spread of the disease may also be due to problems in diagnosing it in cattle infected with the common livestock disease.

In a study of more than 3,000 dairy herds in England and Wales, scientists at Liverpool and in collaboration with Nottingham, the Agri-food and Biosciences Institute, Stormont, and University College Dublin, found that liver fluke infection reduces the effectiveness of skin tests used to diagnose bovine TB, effectively creating false negatives for TB in some.

Co-author of the research, Dr Robin Flynn, from The University of Nottingham’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science said: “We have been very interested in the ability of Fasciola hepatica to modulate host immunity for some time and this study is a worrying example of when this occurs in nature given an estimated 70-80 per cent of dairy herds show signs of liver fluke infection demonstrates the scale of this problem.”

Professor Diana Williams, from the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Infection and Global Health, said: “Tests to diagnose bovine TB rely on inflammation of the skin in response to injected TB proteins, but if the animal also has liver fluke infection, this inflammation is suppressed, reducing the detection of bovine TB. This means that cattle infected with both liver fluke and bovine TB may not be identified by the current bovine TB surveillance scheme in operation in the UK.”

Professor Matthew Baylis, co-author of the research from the Liverpool Institute of Infection and Global Health, said: “The potential consequences of these findings are that infected cattle can continue transmitting BTB to other cattle, to wildlife reservoirs and, if they are moved from their farm of origin, to other areas of the country. This may in part explain the continuing spread of bovine TB and the failure of the current eradication programme in the UK.” 

The research team suggests that this finding will help improve the future diagnosis of bovine TB and speed up eradication of the disease from the UK.

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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham, described by The Sunday Times University Guide 2011 as ‘the embodiment of the modern international university’, has award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and the QS World University Rankings. It was named ‘the world’s greenest university’ in the UI GreenMetric World University Ranking 2011, a league table of the most environmentally-friendly higher education institutions.

The University is committed to providing a truly international education for its 40,000 students, producing world-leading research and benefiting the communities around its campuses in the UK and Asia. Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest ever fund-raising campaign, will deliver the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. For more details, visit: www.nottingham.ac.uk/impactcampaign

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranked the University 7th in the UK by research power.

The University’s vision is to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health. The University won a Queen’s Award for Higher and Further Education in 2011, for its research on global food security. More news from the University at: www.nottingham.ac.uk/news

Story credits

More information is available from Dr Robin Flynn +44 (0)115 951 6493, robin.flynn@nottingham.ac.uk;or Emma Rayner, Media Relations Manager, Communications, University of Nottingham on +44 (0)115 951 5793, emma.rayner@nottingham.ac.uk
Emma Rayner

Emma Rayner - Media Relations Manager

Email: emma.rayner@nottingham.ac.uk Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5793 Location: University Park

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