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Gildernew applauds AFBI advances in Brucellosis fight

18 August, 2009

New DNA science could help trace the spread of Brucellosis and lead to better control and possible eradication, Minister Michelle Gildernew MP MLA has said.

Veterinary Service has capitalised on recent advances by the Agri-Food and Bio-Sciences Institute (AFBI), in their continuing efforts to combat brucellosis. AFBI research scientists in Belfast, in collaboration with Veterinary Laboratories Agency colleagues in Surrey, have taken the bacteria from local brucellosis outbreaks and have analysed the DNA. That DNA fingerprint, along with the information on the Aphis cattle database, provides a new tool with which to investigate the spread of brucellosis. The technique is now being evaluated in the field and initial results are encouraging.

Discussing the use of new techniques in the fight against brucellosis, the Minister said: “Brucellosis is a terrible disease which can destroy livelihoods at an enormous cost to both industry and government. I am very keen to exploit any new technological advances which are accessible and cost-effective to help us eradicate it.

“The outcome of this AFBI research could prove to be a great asset and I congratulate all concerned with the development of this pioneering technology. Simply put, my veterinary officers, when determining the source and spread of a brucellosis outbreak, previously had to rely mainly on their on-the-ground investigations. Now, the DNA fingerprint of the brucellosis bacteria can provide information on links to other breakdown herds. It can confirm or exclude suspected links and identify unsuspected connections.

“This new process allows my vets to explore in detail the contacts between herds that the herd owners themselves may not have considered relevant, particularly as DNA from new infections can now be checked against material from previous brucellosis breakdowns, going back several years.”

In conclusion, the Minister added: “From a veterinary service point of view the new AFBI technique will help them work out where a brucellosis breakdown came from. Despite progress such as this, farmers should not be complacent as the new findings stand as a sharp reminder of how vulnerable livestock can be.

“We have to continue to push the biosecurity message to enable farmers to keep their own herds free of disease. I want to see a time when the whole island is free of brucellosis and we must continue to keep up the fight to achieve this goal.”

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