News

Collaboration to develop sensing technology to help reduce use of antibiotics in farming

View of John Anderson Campus from the north

Researchers at the University of Strathclyde are collaborating on a sensing technology project to improve the accuracy of a testing platform to help detect common infections in livestock and help reduce the use of antibiotics.

Livestock disease is said to cost the UK economy an estimated £1 billion per year in lost productivity and mitigation, and is a major issue for the global industry.

Common infections in dairy and beef cattle, such as bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD), can cause serious immune suppression, bovine pneumonia and calf mortality, and often expensive treatment of secondary infections with antibiotics.

Sensing system

In collaboration with the University, CENSIS, Scotland’s Innovation Centre for sensing and imaging systems, and IoT technologies, the veterinary diagnostics specialist Biotangents is developing an electrochemical sensing system to upgrade its prototype on-farm testing equipment.

Specialist sensor systems have the potential to increase the accuracy of diagnosis.

Dr Damion Corrigan from Strathclyde’s Biomedical Engineering department, said the move is “a fantastic opportunity for collaboration between industry and academia”.

He added: “It’s particularly encouraging to see the power of electrochemical sensing being used to test for diseases in agriculture and the new system could have a significant impact on cattle farming, through the future control and prevention of potentially fatal diseases like BVD.”

Dr Andy Hall-Ponselè, founder and operations director at Biotangents, said: “An accurate, speedy diagnosis is the first step in helping to limit the spread of diseases, such as BVD, which can be passed on by cows touching noses or sharing troughs.

“Five new infectious diseases are emerging each year, and many of these can be passed on to humans. By using our advanced Moduleic Sensing diagnostic platform, we aim to enable vets to identify and manage infectious diseases at the earliest possible opportunity and minimise their chances of spreading.

“Harnessing expertise from both CENSIS and the University of Strathclyde has been an invaluable step towards a fully automated diagnostic platform that can further enable vets in this respect and additionally reduce the need for unnecessary antibiotic treatment.”

Targeted antibiotics

Historically, diagnostic test results for livestock diseases could take up to one week to be returned from a central lab.  Biotangents’ test system can produce BVD test results on the same day and potentially within one hour.  The point-of-care test also aims to make the use of antibiotics more targeted, lessening the risk of livestock resistance to treatments.

Dr Stephen Milne, of CENSIS, said: “Digital technology presents a significant opportunity for innovation and can be used by businesses throughout the sector to improve livestock welfare, lower the burden on farmers, and boost production. “