Testing for contagious cattle disease in New Zealand could take up to 3 months

Testing for the contagious cattle disease, Mycoplasma bovis, could take up to three months, according to the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

The MPI is continuing to build a picture of where the cattle disease is present – it is also making efforts to contain it and eradicate it where possible.

Good progress was made over the week, the Response Incident Controller, Dr. Eve Pleydell, said.

“Our laboratory teams were working at the weekend to continue testing the thousands of milk and blood samples from Van Leeuwen Dairy Group (VLDG) farms and neighbouring properties.

“To date 2,610 samples have been received,” she added.

There have been no further confirmed positive test results since the second case was confirmed on a second farm owned by the VLDG early last week.

The first test results from seven of the VLDG farms have reportedly come back as negative for Mycoplasma bovis.

This is good news, but due to the difficulties of diagnosing this disease, 2 further rounds of testing will be required on these farms before they can be declared free of the disease.

“We expect testing to take two to three months. The disease doesn’t always show symptoms, so we need to take three sets of samples three to four weeks apart – and possibly further sampling depending on those results,” Dr. Pleydell said.

It is important that the MPI finds out if the disease is already occurring in other parts of the country, she concluded.

In order to do this, the MPI is working with regional veterinary laboratories, Massey University and animal industry bodies to collect and analyse samples.

These samples include milk from cows that have mastitis, discard milk and routine bulk milk samples. The first samples from the regional laboratories are expected to arrive at MPI’s Animal Health Laboratory this week.

Mycoplasma bovis

Mycoplasma bovis is a bacterium that causes illness in cattle; the disease has very little effects on other animals. It does not infect humans and presents no food safety risk, the MPI added.

Symptoms of the disease include: udder infection (mastitis); late-term abortion; pneumonia in calves; as well as arthritis in both calves and cows.

Not all animals show symptoms, but they can pass on the disease to other animals through close contact. Mycoplasma bovis is not something that spreads across long distances via wind or water.

Despite the disease being relatively common around the world, this is reportedly the first time it has been detected in New Zealand.