On-Site Testing System

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture and Rural Development – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:30 pm on 23rd September 2002.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of P J Bradley P J Bradley Social Democratic and Labour Party 3:30 pm, 23rd September 2002

3. asked the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development what assessment she has made of the rapid on-site testing system used by the agriculture research service of the United States Department of Agriculture when dealing with suspected disease outbreaks in the national herd.

(AQO 126/02)

Photo of Ms Brid Rodgers Ms Brid Rodgers Social Democratic and Labour Party

My officials have been in contact with the research service of the US Department of Agriculture to discuss its work on the development of a rapid on-site testing system, which can be transported to the site of a suspected disease outbreak by truck or by helicopter. It combines the speed of the latest disease diagnosis techniques of molecular biology with advanced mobile communication technology. In the event of an outbreak, rapid diagnosis can be carried out on the farm, and the results are immediately transmitted back to the control centre. The system is particularly suited to the diagnosis of major outbreaks of exotic diseases where speedy action is essential. I expect that such advance and the methods available to deal with major outbreaks of disease will deliver benefits in the next few years, should we need them.

Photo of P J Bradley P J Bradley Social Democratic and Labour Party

I thank the Minister for her research into the apparatus used in America. I learned that the time between the test and the result is 90 minutes. Here, the same result took three days. Will the Minister tell us why that system was not deployed here during the 2001 outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease?

Photo of Ms Brid Rodgers Ms Brid Rodgers Social Democratic and Labour Party

It would have not been appropriate to use this system last year because international authorities for the diagnosis of foot-and-mouth disease approved neither the system nor the technology on which it is based. The Office International des Epizooties (OIE) foot-and-mouth disease reference laboratory at the Institute of Animal Health, Pirbright has tested the performance of the diagnostic element of the system. Its reports contain reservations about the system and its use as a portable facility, although it remains positive about the potential of this type of rapid diagnostic technique. One of the problems with portable systems is the real danger of cross-contamination during such an exercise.