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Plant and Animal Disease Diagnostics

Mr. Soames: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research she has evaluated on onsite polymerase chain reaction real time technology for diagnosis of animal and plant disease. [191755]

Mr. Bradshaw [holding answer 15 October 2004]: Defra receives a considerable amount of information about developments in real time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology from a variety of sources and work is continuing at the Institute for Animal Health on the development of novel assays for early, rapid and pen-side ('on-site') testing for foot and
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mouth   disease. The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory has also launched a joint venture with industry to develop the technology's wider potential to provide reliable diagnostic tests for animal diseases.

PCR is used routinely for the diagnosis of plant diseases within the laboratory and it has been further developed for use 'on-site' for the diagnosis of two plant diseases "Phytophthora ramorum" (known as Sudden Oak Death in the USA) and the recently discovered disease, "Phytophthora" taxon C. The technology is currently being evaluated in the field alongside the Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate (PHSI) at disease outbreak sites. A large EU and Defra funded project is underway to develop the capability of the PHSI to conduct real time PCR for the detection of a range of
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plant quarantine diseases at ports and points of inspection. We regard this technology as a significant tool for improving the speed and accuracy for detecting key plant diseases.