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Research Project into the use of PCR to detect bovine Tuberculosis in camelids.

The possible use of PCR to detect m bovis (bTB) in camelids has been widely discussed and talked about for many

years. The Camelid TB Support Group have frequently been asked whether we could pursue the possibility of PCR

as a diagnostic tool.


PCR (polymerase chain reaction) is a test that looks for a genetic marker which is present in all strains of TB. PCR

focuses on a particular DNA region within the bacterium.


Following initial discussions and research, Dr Gina Bromage and Dianne Summers met with leading scientists and

microbiologists at the VLA (Veterinary Laboratories Agency) Weybridge in December last year to discuss the

possibility of funding a trial to test if PCR could work in detecting m.bovis in camelids.


Following a further meeting in July with scientists at the VLA we are pleased to announce that we have now signed

contracts with AHVLA Weybridge to conduct such a study. This technique is already used successfully for other similar

diseases and the AHVLA microbioligists are hopeful that due to the advanced gross pathology often found in camelids

it may be possible to detect m.bovis in faeces, nasal swabs or blood.


The object of the project is to generate data for proof of concept for the use of PCR to detect M. bovis in camelids

using samples taken from animals euthanised as part of the Defra TB surveillance program. The tests will be trialled

on camelids that present with visible lesions.


In the background document for this trial Scientists at the VLA state State:

"There are frequently extensive and severe gross lesions in camelids. This is likely to make them infectious

but also means that it should be possible to detect the organism by PCR in clinical samples."

It is common knowledge that alpacas and llamas can be heavily infected and infectious with bTB and yet show no outward

signs or symptoms whatsoever. If this project is successful the simplicity of taking a faecal sample or nasal swab

to be tested at your local VLA would be a huge step forward.

If successful the test could be used:

  • Where an alpaca or llama in a herd that was not under TB restrictions showed clinical signs that could be

attributed to TB.

  • In herds recently confirmed as infected with M. bovis the test could be used to remove cases which were not

picked up by the other ante mortem tests or whilst waiting for culture results or waiting for skin tests and blood

tests to be carried out.

  • As a routine screening test. Testing of faeces and nasal swabs will be quick and affordable. Samples can be

taken by owners and sent to the AHVLA without the need for a farm visit from their Vet. ∙


This project is ready to start now and we need your support.

If you own alpacas or llamas or have an interest in the use of PCR to detect bTB then please contribute to the cause.

Details of how to donate can be found on the ?donate? tab on the Support Group website 

Donations for the PCR project will be ?ring fenced? and used only for the PCR project.

We thank you in advance for your support - let?s fight TB together.

The Support Group Team