Promising results from new Bovine TB test but still no holistic approach in Wales

Cattle herds in Wales and England have been involved in on-farm trials of the new Enferplex Bovine TB antibody test.

It has been designed to detect infected animals that the currently approved tuberculin skin test and gamma blood test have missed.

Early results are being reported as positive with 2,500 samples returning 23.4% Enferplex positive results. The test is believed to have a specificity of between 98.4 and 99.7% and a sensitivity of between 89.4 and 94.5%, meaning that it can detect up to 94.5% of confirmed infected animals within a herd when tested 5-30 days after a skin test.

While the Enferplex test has been approved by the World Organisation for Animal Health to be used as a TB test for cattle, it remains unapproved for regular testing in the UK.

The FUW continues to support a holistic approach which is guided by science to eradicate TB in Wales, however, there is the concern that introducing another test will further encourage the ‘reactive’ approach rather than shifting towards ‘preventative’ measures.

Furthermore, Defra has recently confirmed that badger culling will take place in seven new areas of England with the objective of achieving a 70% reduction in the badger population, in line with the Randomised Badger Culling Trial, which was conducted in England between 1998 and 2005.

This follows the results published in 2019 where after four years of badger culling, there was a 66% and 37% reduction in new TB breakdowns in cattle in Gloucestershire and Somerset respectively.

Trials are also ongoing for cattle TB vaccinations which, in combination with a useable DIVA test, can act as a preventative measure and play vital role towards achieving Welsh Government’s 2041 target for TB freedom, however, it cannot be considered as a silver bullet as it remains just one method of control.

The same can be said for the control of TB in wildlife species, therefore, the Welsh Government must recognise that controlling TB in the wildlife must be one of those tools that is available in the box for tackling this disease in Wales.