Field test to help dairy farmers tackle antimicrobial resistance
21 October 2020
Rugged field diagnostic kit will tell farmers and vets which antibiotics to use to treat cow and buffalo mastitis
Indian dairy farmers will be able to trial a new portable testing kit that can help target antibiotics to treat cows and buffalo, and tackle the global threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
The new project is funded by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency and sees partners including the University of Reading, Capillary Film Technology, Design Science and the National Institute of Animal Biotechnology work together to create an easy to use and portable test to tackle AMR in dairy farming.
In the first phase of the project, dairy farming and biomedical technology experts are working with molecular microbiologists and design experts to create a quick test that can help vets use specific antibiotics to treat mastitis in dairy cattle, reducing the overuse of antibiotics that is leading to AMR.
A rugged briefcase can be used on a farm or in a veterinary clinic by veterinary professionals to make an evidence-based selection of antibiotics for cows and buffalo suffering from bacterial infections such as mastitis.
Dr Partha Ray, a Lecturer in Animal Dairy Science at the University of Reading said:
“Dairy farming requires the almost constant use of a wide range of antibiotics to keep cattle healthy, much like other livestock sectors. However, the overuse of antibiotics due to the lack of a tool for rapid testing of AMR in disease-causing bacteria is contributing to the development and spreading of antimicrobial resistance.
“We have been working with partners in India where over one fifth of the world’s milk is produced to design and develop an AMR test kit to make field testing of antibiotic resistance as simple as possible. The goal here is to enable vets to make precise decisions about which antibiotics to use on cattle and limit the chances of bugs becoming resistant to them.”
The testing kit, Milk Guard, uses a new microcapillary technology that shows in around six hours which antibiotics can kill the bacteria in mastitic milk. The kit includes all of the necessary components and instructions to determine the right antibiotic without the need to send samples to a specialist laboratory.
Mastitis is a significant problem in India’s dairy herds, affecting milk production and quality, farm economics and animal welfare (Smith, et al., 2001). In India, the disease is estimated to account for nearly 70% of the losses incurred during milk production, costing the country more than the equivalent of £765 million annually.
Dr Alexander Edwards, an associate professor in biomedical technology at the University of Reading and Co-Founder and Director of Capillary Film Technology said:
“The microcapillary strips that take a central role in the test kit are a bit like tiny test tubes, each able to divide milk from infected cows into over 200 individual samples (each 1/1000th of a mL), so growth can be measured with or without common antibiotics.”
“One of the main benefits of using these strips is that they are cheap to manufacture and are simple to use, with only a small amount of training to use effectively and can provide results without having to send samples off to a lab. At the best of times, that can take a day or two to get results but the new Milk Guard is designed that no matter how remote you are or what the infrastructure around you is, a vet can get a clinically significant result that can help them make an informed decision about how to treat mastitis.
Dr Bappaditya Dey and Dr Paresh Sharma at the National Institute of Animal Biotechnology, India said:
“Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is a major problem in the dairy sector in India and this innovative diagnostic kit for AMR detection will enable the Vets selecting the right antibiotic in a very short time, thereby helping immensely in the fight to tackle AMR .”
Find out more about Milk Guard at:
Capillary Film Technology Ltd (CFT)
CFT is a technology and product development company for life sciences and clinical diagnostics. CFT is able to bring a disruptive manufacturing technique for the production of low-cost multiplex microfluidic material. Using exclusive know-how and IP, we are currently developing “Tiny Test Tubes” suitable for performing a wide range of analytical microbiology tests, including antibiotic susceptibility testing. Launched in 2020, T3 kits are now available for research use. Microcapillary microbiology tests can be performed without requiring specialist laboratory equipment, and through this project we aim to demonstrate the application of this core technology in field testing for an important global public health and food production challenge.
University of Reading
Research at University of Reading is part of a worldwide network and we have partnerships with academia, business, research organisations and government at local, national, and global levels. We work across continents and disciplines and aim to solve some of the biggest problems people facing in the 21st century by tackling climate change, improving human health, providing food security and understanding human culture. We are continuing the trend of nurturing innovation and delivering impactful research and working with Capillary Film Technology Ltd, Design Science and National Institute of Animal Biotechnology, India to develop a kit that will allow rapid field testing of antibiotic resistance. Through this project we aim to contribute to the tackle of antimicrobial resistance, which will lead to improved human and health and increased food security.
Design Science is an applied design and communications agency that brings knowledge to life through design in science, health and education. We work with scientists, educators and healthcare professionals to make better services, products, environments and experiences.
National Institute of Animal Biotechnology (NIAB)
National Institute of Animal Biotechnology (NIAB) is an autonomous Institute of the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Ministry of Science & Technology, Government of India. NIAB is aimed to harness novel and emerging biotechnologies and take up research in the cutting edge areas for improving animal health and productivity. Through innovative research in the area of Animal Genetics and Genomics, Transgenic Technology, Reproductive Biotechnology, Infectious Diseases, Bioinformatics and Nutrition Enrichment, the institute aims to contribute to a sustainable and globally competitive livestock industry through innovative technologies. Via national and international collaborative research, NIAB aims to develop novel vaccines, diagnostics, and improved therapeutic molecules for farm animals.
Innovate UK drives productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop and realise the potential of new ideas. We connect businesses to the partners, customers and investors that can help them turn ideas into commercially successful products and services and business growth. We fund business and research collaborations to accelerate innovation and drive business investment into R&D. Our support is available to businesses across all economic sectors, value chains and UK regions.
Innovate UK is part of UK Research and Innovation. For more information visit www.innovateuk.ukri.org