Research aims to find ways of hastening M. bovis eradication in NZ

New research will determine if there is a better way of prioritising the investigation of farms potentially infected with Mycoplasma bovis. This would enable the M. bovis programme to more quickly identify infected farms and take action to accelerate eradication of the disease from New Zealand.

The Ministry for Primary Industries and its M. bovis Programme partners DairyNZ and Beef+Lamb New Zealand have issued a request for proposals from organisations to undertake the Epidemiology Research on Risk Prioritisationproject.

“Farms potentially infected with M. bovis are currently prioritised for follow up (casing) using several criteria. This research aims to determine if there is anything we can do to improve the current system, to enable the Programme to more effectively prioritise farms at high-risk of infection for urgent casing,” explains Dr John Roche, Chair of the M. bovis Strategic Science Advisory Group (SSAG) and MPI’s Chief Science Adviser.

Dr Roche says these high-risk farms are more likely to need animal movement controls applied to help slow the spread of the disease and speed up the eradication.

New Zealand is the first country in the world to attempt to eradicate M. bovis, a bacterial disease that can cause significant animal welfare and productivity issues, particularly in dairy cattle, including mastitis that doesn’t respond to treatment, severe lameness and late term abortions.

The research has been identified as a priority in the Mycoplasma bovis Science Plan, developed by the SSAG to ensure research projects are directed where they will have the most impact to accelerate eradication. It also supports recommendations made in two recent reviews into the M. bovis programme.

This will be a short-term project based on analysis of existing data.

The M. bovis Programme has allocated up to $30 million over two years for M. bovisresearch projects, guided by the science plan. This is part of the $870 million in funding allocated to eradicating M. bovis.

The risk prioritisation research is the third science plan project to go out to market. A large number of proposals for a major diagnostic research programme are currently being evaluated, submitted from researchers based in New Zealand and overseas. Quotes to undertake a study into the direct impact of M. bovis on animals and herds are also being evaluated.

The M. bovis Epidemiology Risk Prioritisation request for proposals has been issued on the Government Electronic Tender Services (GETS). Applications must be received by 2pm on 18 September 2019.

M. bovis Science Plan – Epidemiology risk prioritisation research


What is the aim of this research project?

To determine if there is a better way of prioritising farms potentially infected with Mycoplasma bovis.

This would enable the M. bovis Programme to more effectively prioritise follow up casing of high-risk properties that will likely need animal movement controls applied to help accelerate the eradication of the disease.

When would a property be identified as potentially being infected with M. bovis?

Usually when the M. bovis Programme’s tracing of cattle or milk from infected farms suggests a farm may be at risk. This is likely to be because the farm has received animals or milk from a farm of interest.

What does casing involve?

The M. bovis Programme contacts a farmer to confirm cattle movements and verify farm data and other details as necessary. Casing information is reviewed by the M. bovis programme surveillance team who determine what action is required. This can include a Notice of Direction, which is a legal order restricting animal movements off the farm, or testing without movement controls if the risks are low, and the Programme is interested in ruling out presence of disease, rather than expecting to find it. Read more about what happens when a farm is suspected of having animals infected with M. bovis.

How does the M. bovis Programme prioritise properties for casing now?

Properties currently identified as having the highest M. bovis infection risk, and are therefore the highest priority for casing, are those that received cattle or milk from a property confirmed as being infected with M. bovis, during the time it was infected, and/or dairy farms that return a ‘detect’ result on bulk tank milk tested by ELISA, which detects antibodies to the M. bovis.

What additional risk factors could be factored into an improved risk-assessment model?

This is the key question we are wanting the research to answer, but some additional risk factors could include:

• the number of animals that have been moved onto a property – a movement of 100 animals has a greater chance of including an infected animal than a movement of 10 animals, particularly for beef properties;

• the farming production calendar could be incorporated to address periods where the risk of further animal movements off farm is greatest in the different enterprises and in the different regions, i.e. movements off farm vary by time of year, enterprise type, and region.

How will the research organisation undertake this work?

They will analyse existing data collected as part of the M. bovis programme – no new data will need to be collected from farmers.

Will this research directly result in movement restrictions being placed on farms?

No. This research is aiming to make the current prioritisation system more efficient in order to slow the spread of the disease and speed up the eradication.

How does this research project relate to the two recent reviews into the M. bovisProgramme?

It supports the recommendations coming out of the reviews on ways to improve the M. bovis Programme processes and systems.

Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog

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