Purdue researchers develop quick test to spot most costly bovine disease

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Purdue University researchers have developed a test that allows for quicker diagnosis and pinpointed treatment of bovine respiratory disease, the most common and costly disease affecting the world’s cattle.

The on-site test provides results within an hour and can identify three strains of bacteria that are among the four most likely to cause bovine respiratory disease, or BRD.

A nasal swab extracts a sample that is then placed in a vial of chemicals. The contents change color to identify which bacterial strain is present.

“Some of the bacteria that cause BRD have become resistant to certain antibiotics,” Mohit Verma, Purdue assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering, said in a written statement.

“Unfortunately, because the (current) standard test can take several days to provide a result, the farmers need to treat the cattle before they know the pathogen responsible. This can lead to use of an ineffective antibiotic or overuse of antibiotics.”

Verma said his quick test leads to proper treatment and reduces unnecessary use of antibiotics for a disease that is responsible for half of all cattle deaths from disease in North America and costs the beef industry $900 million annually.

Verma and his team have developed the technology with the help of a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The next step toward getting the technology into the hands of veterinarians and farmers is to develop paper test strips that can identify the bacteria.

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