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Friday 16 November 2018

New sensor can detect animal disease on the spot

The sensor, which is the size of a euro coin, can be filled with various disease-detecting serums.
The sensor, which is the size of a euro coin, can be filled with various disease-detecting serums.

Ken Whelan

Irish researchers have developed a new animal testing sensor which can detect cattle diseases in "real time" and allow farmers and vets to isolate an affected animal before the infection can spread to the rest of their herd.

The sensor, which is the size of a euro coin, can be filled with various disease-detecting serums which can give an on-the-spot diagnosis of an infection.

The speed of the sensor could put an end to the wait - up to a week long - between a diagnosis by a vet of a problem on farm and getting the test results back from State laboratories.

The hand-held sensor will "turn vets into walking laboratories", according to UCC's Dr Alan O'Riordan, an analytical chemist specialising in sensors who is heading up the project.

Dr O'Riordan told Farming Independent that the development was part of the overall move to "digitise farming" and drastically reduce response times to on-farm disease problems.

The sensor has been used successfully to detect conditions such as BVD and IBR, and is being trialled for liver fluke.

In secondary research, the device is being used to test for fungi and bacteria in barley and seed potatoes, and there are hopes that it may eventually be used to identify pollution in our water courses.

The sensor has already been patented in Ireland, Europe and the United States, and Dr O'Riordan expects the product to be brought to market by the end of 2019.

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"So far the sensor has shown successful results on detecting disease in cattle mainly in the dairy sector, and has markedly speeded up the way we deal with these infection outbreaks," Dr O'Riordan said.

"While the testing programme has mainly been on dairy herds, the device can be used to identify all types of disease and infection with cattle generally and with sheep."

Dr O'Riordan feels that this platform technology will have applications once the final form of Brexit is sorted out between Britain and the EU.

"It will have obvious uses given the amount of animals and food produce which cross the border on the island of Ireland daily, whether it is used for checking livestock for infections and diseases or food produce in terms of its freshness and generally maintaining our agri standards," he said.

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