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Identification of relevant diagnostic antigens for bovine tuberculosis: influences of animal and regional disease patterns

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Protecting cattle from Bovine tuberculosis

Bovine tuberculosis poses a serious and continuous threat to farmers across the EU and other regions worldwide. Efforts to fully eradicate the disease are dependant upon the development of novel and specific diagnostic products as a first step towards early detection and removal.

Health

The incidence of bovine tuberculosis (BT) is low across the EU. Given that it affects other regions, however, and that it poses a direct threat to human health make the need to eliminate the disease all the more pressing. BT is caused by the microorganism Mycobacterium bovis, which formed the point of focus for the EU's KEY M. BOVIS ANTIGEN project. Researchers concentrated on the identification of novel mycobacterial antigens, suitable to be used in diagnostic methods. The first step in that process was the development of appropriate models of infection. Two models were created, one in guinea pigs and one in cattle; they were both used for the screening of a large array of antigens from Mycobacterium bovis. The aim was to identify specific mycobacterial components, the presence of which would reveal the onset (and possibly the stage) of infection. A number of antigens were isolated and used as the basis for novel diagnostic technologies. It was suggested that cattle with progressed disease display higher levels of the key cytokine molecule, interferon-gamma, involved in antibacterial immune responses. These technologies could turn into the foundations for new diagnostic products, and are therefore of particular interest to public organisations and the animal health industry.

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