Abingdon Health has been awarded a grant to develop an on-farm multiplex rapid test for mastitis in cattle.

Mastitis (udder inflammation) is a production limiting disease in cattle and has an estimated £14-23 billion impact on the global dairy industry. It is currently detected by visual inspection of milk, temperature monitoring or via time-consuming laboratory methods, all of which have limitations.

The project, funded by a grant from Innovate UK, is worth £805k over a 30 month project period and will be undertaken in partnership with the University of Glasgow (UofG). It aims to develop a highly sensitive and specific assay with the ability to stratify mastitis by bacterial class (gram-negative or gram-positive). It would then offer fast, on-farm decision making about antimicrobial treatment of cows with mastitis and providing an opportunity to reduce antimicrobial use whilst safeguarding cow health.

Professor David Eckersall University of Glasgow's biomarker expert said: "This Innovate UK project is to commercialize the development of diagnostic tests for mastitis, which is the most serious health problem in dairy farming.

"The project is the culmination of a decade long research programme where we have identified and characterised, in the laboratory, potential biomarkers for this disease. The project will translate our research into technology that can be used on the farm and also demonstrate its value in the dairy industry.”

Project lead Professor Ruth Zadoks said: "The pressure to reduce the use of antimicrobials in food production is growing rapidly and some countries have already imposed limitations on antimicrobial use, such as quota. We must provide dairy farmers with the tools to minimize antimicrobial use without jeopardizing cow health or food safety. This project, and the School of Veterinary Medicine’s good relationship with the dairy industry, enable us to do so.”

Abingdon’s Chief Technology Officer, Dr David Pritchard, commented:

“We are very much looking forward to collaborating with the University of Glasgow to start translating their research into a commercially available product that can not only detect mastitis but also guide treatment. We believe that this test will provide benefits to the dairy industry in terms of milk quality and yield and to the cattle in terms of animal welfare. In addition, there will be public health benefits resulting from reduced antimicrobial use.”