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Extract received from Dr Breeze December 6th 2007

(See also warmwell page on rapid diagnosis at the site of possible infection)

"......The issue is not whether FMD should be diagnosed by PCR using test materials that cost about $12 test. FMD is diagnosed in most countries now by a PCR test that costs at least $12 a test - the issue is whether that test should be done on the farm or in a fixed lab, cost of the test is irrelevant.

Making your own test is actually more expensive than buying tests because the labour involved in home brewing is not calculated in the test cost.

If you detect FMD on farm within minutes - versus days in sending a sample to a lab - you will save enormous amounts of money in response costs downstream.

If a farmer had the choice between paying $12 for a test versus seeing his animals killed without testing because they were located within 3 miles of an FMD infected farm, all the farmers I know would be happy to pay for a daily test out of their own pockets.

An FMD PCR test for $12 is an incredible bargain - sending a sample from your cat or cow to a US animal diagnostic lab, such as Kansas State, for a PCR test will cost you $50 for the test or more.

There are not millions of animals to test. In the US each year there are about 2000 reports of suspicious livestock diseases that could be FMD. Most of these end up with a sample going to Plum Island.

So if the USDA vet in each state had a portable PCR machine it would be a one time cost of $2.5 million (for all diseases) and an annual test purchase cost (say 60 tests per vet or 3000 total) of $36,000. This would allow on farm testing of all 2000 suspect cases each year.

If there was an outbreak in the US, we could be testing herds. You would pool samples from several animals in a herd - not test each animal separately.

Consider the cost of killing those herds that were not infected in Britain recently - was that a bargain compared to $12?

I expect the cassette cost for the simple device will also be $12 to $15.

There is an old saying that if you think education is expensive then try ignorance. I cannot believe that $12 is excessive for a test for the world's most dangerous livestock disease that finds infected animals before signs of illness (and infectivity to others), that is produced in a facility licensed by USDA and FDA and manufactured under good laboratory practices, and that finds as few as 10 dead virus particles compared to the 1000 particles necessary to detect by cell culture.

We took 2500 ASF (African Swine Fever) tests to Georgia and have sent another 1000.

If all the UK farms that were slaughtered out in 2001 had been tested in a pooled sample from 10 animals it would have been £100,000 for test kits at most!

It is not necessary to differentiate between FMD serotypes on the farm since this is not a time-sensitive decision. The response in USA, EU and UK to all FMD serotypes is the same until a vaccine is deployed based on the serotype and subtype. The exact virus type can be determined by sequencing the entire virus genome within 24 hours of first identification by on-farm PCR.

By the way, USDA (and probably Pirbright) make their FMD PCR tests in house in facilities that are not FDA or USDA licensed for diagnostics production and they do not follow good manufacturing practices. USDA encourages the state labs to do the same thing and not purchase quality test kits from Tetracore...."