Camelid TB Support & Research Group

Mike Birch                            

Dianne Summers                 

Help and Support for those affected by Bovine TB in Alpacas & Llamas

Email: Support@alpacatb.org

07711 927526

 07949 511316

Why is bTB such a serious issue?

Bovine TB is a zoonosis, which means it is transmissible from animals to humans. bTB is a notifiable disease, which means there are legal requirements to report it if it is present or suspected of being present in your herd. *

*In 2010 Dianne Summers was diagnosed with bTB herself from her own herd breakdown. She has the same spoligotype (unique strain)  as her own herd, and handled just 6 infected alpacas that had the same spoligotype.

Why is bTB an important issue in Camelids?

Camelids can sometimes carry the infection for months or even years before it kills them. Blood tests are now available but it should be noted that in some cases they offer as little as a 55% chance of detecting bTB if present so caution, good bio security and risk assesment is still vital.

Initial detection of bTB in a herd relies on responsible owners blood testing, having a Post mortem examination following a death, or a vet informing APHA if they suspect a sick camelid may have TB. Not all owners carry out PM’s on their losses and not all vets are aware of TB in camelids, therefore TB is still going undetected and can be (and has been) sold on. Some herds have been placed under restriction not because they have been responsible and had a PM on a loss, but because the new owners of a camelid that they have sold later died, and the new owners had a PM and TB was traced back to the originating breeder.

It is the legal duty of owners and/or their vets to notify to APHA of any suspect cases of TB in carcases of camelids and to retain the carcase(s) until examined by a veterinary officer or submitted to a APHA laboratory. APHA have legal powers to apply herd movement restrictions where a reasonable suspicion of TB exists, and have powers to enforce TB testing and removal of any  test reactors (positives). The Welsh Assembly Government introduced legal powers on 31/03/2011 to deal specifically with cases of TB in non-bovine species (including camelids) (see news). The control of TB in animals is a devolved matter in the UK and England, Wales, Scotland have slightly different policies and regulations, although APHA operates at GB-level for all three administrations.

What has led us here?

Before blood testing became compulsory in a breakdown, once having agreed to test, many herds came out of restriction having used only the comparative skin test which gives a vast amount of FALSE NEGATIVES (that means infected animals are not detected). The skin test is very poor at detecting the disease at any stage, but enhances the sensitivity of the blood tests. Compulsory blood testing to come out of restrictions should help to reduce the number of herds with ongoing breakdowns.

Camelids can carry the disease for years and have advanced TB lesions throughout their system without showing symptoms. The video on the left demonstrates this point. The alpaca was culled 4 days later and had widespread TB lesions throughout his organs.

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