Possible good news on new F&MD test

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NOTE: Ken, looks like you stopped the Consolidated F&MD Thread. If you didn't, this probably belongs there.

On the spot

A portable test for foot and mouth disease is being evaluated - it could become a key weapon in fighting the virus

Exclusive from New Scientist magazine

A portable test that tells within an hour if an animal has foot and mouth disease had been developed in the US and is being evaluated in the UK.

It could be of huge benefit to British vets who need to cut the time between diagnosis and slaughter of infected livestock, if the epidemic currently raging is to be controlled. It would be especially valuable for sheep, in which the symptoms are very hard to spot.

Photo: Joan Russell/Guzelian At present, samples from animals have to be sent to off to a lab for testing. This can cause delays of a day or more. So vets are now condemning suspect flocks to slaughter merely on suspicion. An on-the-spot test would be invaluable for speeding up diagnosis and preventing unnecessary slaughter.

Bill Nelson of Tetracore of Gaithersburg, Maryland, the company that developed the test, arrived in Britain on 31 March with an official from the US Department of Agriculture to put the test through its paces. "The question is whether it's of any value at this point in the epidemic," Nelson says.

Blood and saliva

The test is based on PCR, a way of making large quantities of a predetermined "target" fragment of DNA or RNA. In this case, the target is the RNA coding for an enzyme called 3D-polymerase that enables the foot and mouth virus to replicate.

All seven major strains of the foot and mouth virus have this enzyme in common, so the test should spot them all. "We look at saliva, tissue or blood," says Nelson. "At Plum Island, we've proved it works in pigs, sheep and cattle, at least for saliva," he says.

Tetracore has managed to squeeze all the equipment needed for PCR into a box about 30 centimetres square. Vets would simply put a sample into a small tube pre-loaded with the necessary reagents. The box can analyse 16 samples at a time. "We use a laptop computer to run it," says Nelson. "It takes about an hour."

"If you had 100 sheep, you could test individual sheep or combined samples from, say, 10 at a time," says Fred Brown, a foot and mouth researcher at Plum Island. This means you could screen entire herds very rapidly, he says.

Nelson stresses that the test has yet to be validated. "We don't know till it's been test-driven whether it works," says Nelson. The equipment is not cheap either, at $28,000. But it could pay its way if it spots infected animals quickly.

1900 GMT, 4 April 2001

Andy Coghlan New Scientist Online News

Copyright New Scientist, RBI Limited 2001

-- Lynn Goltz (lynngoltz@aol.com), April 09, 2001

Answers

Lynn:

While I certainly haven't lost interest in the subject, one forum participant pointed out cutting and pasting articles from the NYTs was likely a violation of copyright. Personally, it wouldn't bother me since it certainly wasn't a 'for profit' situation, but I don't want to expose the magazine to a lawsuit either. Still pondering over this.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (scharabo@aol.com), April 09, 2001.


Ken, I believe as long as you state the article is copyright protected and note the source you are OK. What most organizations do not want is people using their material as if it was their own. Generally, I would think they welcome the spreading of awareness of their organization. Some major news services may not, but have not heard of any actions. If an organization disapproves, they will send you a letter stating this fact and request you stop. However, if Countryside wishes us to stop posting articles, let us know so we may stop this practice on all threads. Just my opinion.

-- Lynn Goltz (lynngoltz@aol.com), April 10, 2001.

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