We shall develop a rapid, sensitive, cost-effective on-farm test to diagnose pneumonia, to 1) inform herd management; 2) mitigate the economic cost caused by the long-term of damage of pneumonia on productivity; and 3) reduce the unnecessary use of antibiotics through better, evidence-based prescribing.
Calf pneumonia is a ‘disease complex’, caused by co-infection with a variety of pathogens, together with other environmental/stress factors, such as weaning, variation in temperature and humidity. The estimated lifetime economic cost of a case of pneumonia in a dairy heifer is £772, highlighting the potential returns from investing in reducing the impact of this disease. Despite the substantial cost that calf pneumonia causes the UK cattle industry, most farmers prefer to reduce the likelihood of the disease occurring or rely on detecting pneumonia through non-specific means. That is not to say that specific diagnostic tests are not available, but there are reasons why farmers are not using them routinely. We intend to understand the impediments to diagnostic test use in more detail through engagement with farmers and calf rearers.

Recent developments in rapid molecular diagnostics, including loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP), have opened the possibility of rapid, on-farm diagnosis of calf pneumonia using nasal swabs. Drawing on the complementary skills of our new partnership, the test will be co-developed through stakeholder engagement in a virtuous circle and technically, will combine novel sample preparation/DNA extraction in a disposable cartridge with readout on a lateral flow device (LFD) with preliminary validation data, and be the first to combine simultaneous detection of bacteria and DNA viruses from clinical samples to aid diagnosis. Coupling the LFD readout to smartphone AI-based, on-farm decision support will allow for early intervention and the application of specific, better informed treatment protocols.

Contact details:

Professor Mark Chambers

Professor of Microbiology and Disease Intervention, Head of Section and Animal & Plant Biology

University of Surrey