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Bovine Tuberculosis

Volume 447: debated on Tuesday 13 June 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent advice he has received on ways to improve the efficiency of testing cattle for bovine tuberculosis. (76330)

The single intradermal comparative cervical tuberculin (SICCT) test is a well-established screening test for TB in cattle and the primary tool for live testing in Great Britain.

The SICCT is approved and recognised by the EU Commission and the International Animal Health Organisation (OIE) as the primary tool for the diagnosis of TB in cattle and other species, by virtue of its overall accuracy, robustness and relative simplicity. This has been demonstrated in several field evaluations conducted throughout the world.

The accuracy of any test is measured in terms of its specificity (proportion of uninfected animals identified as negative) and its sensitivity (proportion of infected animals detected as positive). The specificity for a correctly performed SICCT is above 99 per cent. Its sensitivity is between 77 per cent. and 95 per cent.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps he is taking to ensure adequate numbers of veterinary surgeons are available to test herds for bovine TB. (76331)

We recognise the importance of ensuring sufficient resources are available to carry out bovine TB testing. My officials closely monitor the situation and meet regularly with the veterinary profession.

Last year the Government introduced legislation under the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 to enable technical staff in the State Veterinary Service to carry out TB tests. A pilot study into lay TB testing is due to conclude shortly. We will consult the veterinary profession and other interested parties on the results and any proposals to extend lay testing.