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Gamma interferon test defended

30th January 2008

A Conservative MP has spoken out in support of the gamma interferon test complementing the existing skin test for bovine tuberculosis.

James Paice, the shadow agriculture minister, made his comments to BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today, despite a number of farms in the south-west reporting discrepancies in the number animals testing positive for the disease.

The test, which the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) introduced around 18 months ago, has gained a lot of credibility through its use in other countries, he said.

Furthermore, Defra asserts that research exists which shows animals reacting negatively to the skin test but positively to the gamma interferon are likely to show signs of infection at a later point, Mr Paice explained.

“It would appear from that, that there is some sort of subclinical level of infection that no other test is picking up and is not even picked up on post mortem,” he told Radio 4.

There should be an expansion in the use of the test to ensure there are no undetected animals carrying the infection, Mr Paice argued.

According to Defra, the skin test remains the best screening test for bovine tuberculosis, while the gamma interferon test has only been approved as an ancillary diagnostic tool.

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