Producers will be able to detect footrot in a sheep flock faster than ever because of a new diagnostic test being trialled across the state and Victoria.
Biosecurity SA has begun a 12-month trial of LAMP technology, lamp medicated isothermal amplification, which is portable diagnostic technology that can provide disease results on-farm in 20 minutes.
The trial will be conducted with AgriBio, part of Agriculture Victoria, and PIRSA’s chief veterinarian officer Roger Paskin said the time had definitely come for farmers and industry members, to have immediate disease detection results to push instantaneous action on stopping further contamination.
“Imagine a farmer who’s flock has a footrot problem and is not sure how severe or whether he needs to manage it, having to wait a month for results? ” he said.
“This puts the producer in limbo on how best to conduct his business going forward, because he does not know whether to sell or not sell, to treat or not treat, the test gives certainty in a matter of minutes.
“Equipped with results in their hand as proof, it provides confirmation and immediacy.”
If footrot lesions are detected on an animal, up to five swabs are taken and added to media, which is heated in the machine to detect the gene that is specific to virulent footrot.
Biosecurity SA animal health officer Chris Van-Dissel said a PCR test, polymerase chain reaction, is used rather than the traditional process of sending it to a laboratory.
“There is a graph on the screen of the device and as the detection of the disease amplifies, the graph line will go up. After 20 minutes, if we get any type of curve in the graph’s line, we can demonstrate straight away to a farmer or saleyard stock agent, that we have detected virulent footrot,” he said.
“At a saleyard we are constrained by time, so if we run the test about an hour before the auction, we can prove there is a footrot problem on the day and demonstrate it with data. The sheep are then dealt with appropriately to prevent disease spread on a large scale.”
The trial will involve two machines using LAMP technology in the north and South East of the state, and will include on-farm testing of large sheep flocks.
“We need to get an accurate clinical picture, the virulent samples will also be sent to a laboratory and submitted to La Trobe University, who are compiling the data,” Mr Van-Dissel said.
Livestock SA president Joe Keynes said he welcomed the new technology and collaboration between SA and VIC, and moving forward with disease management.
He said the most critical point and benefit for producers with the new testing process, is being able to distinguish between benign and virulent footrot.
“Knowing you can treat it before it reaches the virulent stage is paramount to stopping it spread,” Mr Keynes said.
“If producers are serious about biosecurity and the treatment of animal diseases, then they will welcome a diagnostic tool that aids testing more accurately and faster,” he said.
“The main challenge we face with footrot is to get a quick diagnosis because at the moment it is predominately a visual diagnosis and then producers undertake a treatment program.”