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Defra's consultation document on "preparing for a new GB strategy for bovine tuberculosis", and in particular gamma interferon as a decision-making tool.

After watching with interest the item on the gamma interferon assay in last Sunday's BBC Countryfile broadcast, including a discussion with Defra about the problems of being able to use this assay as part of a testing regime, I was surprised to learn that it has already been introduced by Defra to "... resolve suspected cases of non-specific reactions (NSR) ... as a decision making tool...".  This was published in February 2004 in a bovine tuberculosis consultation document (PB 9066), "Preparing for a new GB strategy on bovine tuberculosis", 
http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/tbstrategy/consultation.pdf, on page 34, Chapter 4:

"4.9.5  Moreover, we have already introduced the use of gamma interferon to resolve suspected cases of non-specific reactions (NSR) to the skin test as a decision making tool when considering whole or partial herd depopulation."

I asked Defra for clarification and was informed that this 'decision-making' tool is used in special circumstances where whole herd slaughter is being considered and that it is not to be used to back up the decision on individual reactors, and that those animals disclosed by the skin test would be slaughtered and not included in the follow up gamma interferon test.

However, on reading the relevant paragraphs in this consultation document, it would seem that Defra fails to define this as the purpose of using gamma interferon, and fails to rule out its use on an individual animal. The implication (perhaps by omission) is that this test could be used to confirm the individual reactor.

In the covering letter on the Defra website, we are told that comments should be sent by 4 May 2004, to the TB Strategy Team, or by email to their consultation mailbox
tb.strategy@defra.gsi.gov.uk

Mary Marshall


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