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Electronic Nose To Diagnose bTB Infection in Badgers and Cattle

This work was funded in part by the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
This paper was first received by the Journal on the 27th May 2004 and was finally accepted on the 7th November 2004
The most important quotation from the Abstract is:
"Without exception, the Electronic Nose was able to discriminate infected animals from controls as early as 3 weeks after infection with Mycobacterium bovis"
It's such a fantastic piece of work, you've got to question why the "spooks" in DEFRA never even mention it as a possible solution to killing thousands of cattle or badgers.


Journal of Clinical Microbiology, April 2005, p. 1745-1751, Vol. 43, No. 4


R. Fend, R. Geddes, S. Lesellier, H.-M. Vordermeier, L. A. L. Corner, E. Gormley, E. Costello, R. G. Hewinson, D. J. Marlin, A. C. Woodman, and M. A. Chambers. Relevant institutions include:

  • Cranfield BioMedical Centre, Cranfield University, Bedfordshire

  • TB Research Group, Veterinary Laboratories Agency Surrey

  • Centre for Equine Studies, Animal Health Trust, Kentford, Suffolk

  • Department of Large Animal Clinical Studies, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University College Dublin

  • Central Veterinary Research Laboratory, Department of Agriculture and Food, Abbotstown, Dublin


It is estimated that more than 50 million cattle are infected with Mycobacterium bovis worldwide, resulting in severe economic losses. Current diagnosis of tuberculosis (TB) in cattle relies on tuberculin skin testing, and when combined with the slaughter of test-positive animals, it has significantly reduced the incidence of bovine TB. The failure to eradicate bovine TB in Great Britain has been attributed in part to a reservoir of the infection in badgers (Meles meles). Accurate and reliable diagnosis of infection is the cornerstone of TB control. Bacteriological diagnosis has these characteristics, but only with samples collected postmortem. Unlike significant wild animal reservoirs of M. bovis that are considered pests in other countries, such as the brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) in New Zealand, the badger and its sett are protected under United Kingdom legislation (The Protection of Badgers Act 1992). Therefore, an accurate in vitro test for badgers is needed urgently to determine the extent of the reservoir of infection cheaply and without destroying badgers. For cattle, a rapid on-farm test to complement the existing tests (the skin test and gamma interferon assay) would be highly desirable. To this end, we have investigated the potential of an electronic nose (EN) to diagnose infection of cattle or badgers with M. bovis, using a serum sample. Samples were obtained from both experimentally infected badgers and cattle, as well as naturally infected badgers. Without exception, the EN was able to discriminate infected animals from controls as early as 3 weeks after infection with M. bovis, the earliest time point examined postchallenge. The EN approach described here is a straightforward alternative to conventional methods of TB diagnosis, and it offers considerable potential as a sensitive, rapid, and cost-effective means of diagnosing M. bovis infection in cattle and badgers.


electronic, nose, bovine, tuberculosis, Mycobacterium bovis, badgers, meles meles, cattle

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