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Volatile organic compound analysis for the rapid diagnosis of disease: TB in badgers and cattle as proof of principle - SE3221

Developments in genomics have highlighted the concept of “array technologies” and the potential power of understanding “disease signatures”. Recently, significant progress has been made in developing tests for the rapid diagnosis of disease, based on the detection and analysis of volatiles present in clinical samples, using chemical sensor arrays coupled with multi-variate data analysis.

The generic nature of sensor technology is such that it has the potential to be applied across a wide range of core Defra activities. These include, rapid pen-side detection and diagnosis of infectious diseases in animals, improving the speed of diagnosis of infectious disease by culture, improving the quality and flavour of food and environmental monitoring (of water, soil animal waste etc) for quality and contamination. It is thus a truly cross-cutting technology which has the potential to be applied to objectives under the six science themes laid out in Defra’s Science and Innovation Strategy document.

We have recently obtained proof of principle that it is possible to differentiate badgers and cattle with tuberculosis from healthy controls by analysing the volatiles present in serum using an electronic nose (eNose). The aim of this proposal is to evaluate more fully the analysis of volatile organic compounds (VOC) for tuberculosis detection using two different devices: the eNose and SIFT-MS (selective ion flow tube mass spectrometry).

Bovine tuberculosis remains an economically important problem in Great Britain with potential zoonotic consequences. As such, Defra continues to have a statutory obligation to control tuberculosis in farm animals in Great Britain under the Animal Health Act of 1981, the Tuberculosis Orders, and various EC directives. Despite the current test and slaughter control programme, the frequency of occurrence of bovine tuberculosis continues to increase and badgers have been identified as a significant reservoir for Mycobacterium bovis. The Krebs Report [1] highlighted the need to develop improved diagnostic assays for bovine and badger tuberculosis. These are expected to offer improvements in terms of diagnostic accuracy in both species and could have significant impact on the control of bovine tuberculosis.

If successful, the technology underpinning both approaches could be used to develop rapid diagnostic tests which could be performed on farms or in the field. Such a test for TB would complement current immuno-diagnostic assays such as tuberculin skin testing, blood-based IFN-gamma assays and serology. In the longer term such tests could be developed for use by farmers (or local vets) to monitor their own livestock for a range of infectious diseases.

Tests/technology arising from this project have the potential for commercialisation, and as such this takes the work beyond the realm of the Veterinary Research Division (AHAW DG).
01 Practical methodology developed to obtain breath samples from cattle in the field (by 31/03/2006).

02 Sensitivity and specificity of eNose and SIFT-MS determined for the detection of TB in cattle and badgers using sera (by 31/03/2007).

03 Sensitivity and specificity of eNose and SIFT-MS determined for the detection of TB in cattle using clinical samples other than serum (by 31/03/2008).

04 VOC associated with tuberculosis identified (by 31/03/2008).
Project Documents
• FRP - Final Report : Final Report   (925k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2006

To: 2009

Cost: £457,390
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Veterinary Laboratories Agency
Animal Health              
Bovine Tuberculosis              
Plants and Animals