Dr Ben Swift from Royal Veterinary College and Dr Cath Rees from Nottingham University have been off to Buckingham Palace to collect the Royal Dairy Innovation Award for a bovine tuberculosis test they developed together.

The test, which enables the rapid identification of cattle infected with Mycobacteria, was first developed by Dr Swift as part of his PhD studies at the University of Nottingham. Since joining the RVC, he has continued to evolve the technology working alongside academics at his former university.

Dr Swift and Dr Rees were presented with the award by HRH the Princess Royal.

The Royal Dairy Innovation Award recognises research and development in the field of dairy farming and is awarded for the most practical, relevant product or service which is, or likely to be the most significant innovation for the future.

The RVC says the test is able to detect mycobacteria in the blood and milk of cattle within six hours using a bacteriophage-based technique. As a result, cattle affected by Mycobacterium bovis, the bacteria that causes bovine TB, can be diagnosed for the disease more quickly, allowing for more effective disease management in herds.

Additionally, the test has been used to effectively detect Johne’s Disease – another endemic illness that affects dairy cattle – in new born calves for the first time. By being able to catch the disease at an early stage, this test can help further with controlling infections in dairy herds. 

The test is now licenced to spin-out company, PBD Biotech Ltd and marketed as Actiphage. It can also be used as a highly sensitive quality assurance test in milk and dairy products. 

Dr Swift, who is a Research Fellow in antimicrobial resistance, said: "It is really exciting to be recognised with this award. Translating technology from the bench to be used in real-world scenarios is a great thing and really shows the impact of our research. Hopefully this will help manage two extremely difficult diseases in the UK and worldwide."

Photo: Benjamin Swift (RVC), Dr Cath Rees (University of Nottingham), Princess Anne and Dr Berwyn Clarke (PBD Biotech).

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