In response to the Government announcement of further action to improve testing of cattle for bovine tuberculosis, the Presidents of the BVA and BCVA, Freda Scott-Park and Andrew Biggs, said today, "The BVA and BCVA support the further use of the gamma interferon blood test alongside the skin test to improve the sensitivity of the TB testing regime."

Andrew Biggs noted, "The gamma interferon test has the ability to detect an infected animal earlier than the skin test and maximum sensitivity is achieved when they are used together. This will be particularly useful as it will help to improve the detection of infected cattle in herds with persistent TB problems, or to help to prevent new hotspots of TB becoming established".

He said, "The BVA and BCVA are encouraged by the results of the recent trials which show the specificity of gamma interferon to be 97%. However, we would urge Defra to complete further validation work to provide reassurance to the profession that the specificity demonstrated is accurate."

Commenting on the publication of the Defra-commissioned review of TB testing procedures (the Comer Report) Dr Scott-Park and Mr Biggs said, "Many veterinary surgeons cooperated in the production of the Comer report to ensure that it reported the true situation in the field."

"We look forward to working with DEFRA and the State Veterinary Service to implement the report's recommendations and revise the Operating Procedures."

They noted that the report commented that variations from the SOPs were unlikely to have compromised the identification of reactor animals.

The BVA and BCVA went on to say, "We welcomed the indication in January that new TB incidents were falling and are encouraged that the trend has continued. However, it is essential that all possible reasons for the apparent reduction in new cases should continue to be investigated so it can be confirmed that the figures accurately reflect a decline in the actual disease incidence." They noted that the TB test had been carried out in exactly the same way for many years so the decline could not be attributed to variations in the way it was performed.


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