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TB in alpacas

 Added by  Dianne Summers (Guest)
 25 Sep 2009, 12:29 PM

What a brilliant website you have. I cannot thank you enough for attaching a link on your home page to my Tb My Story So Far letter. I am suffering a similar plight to yours but in alpacas. You have my full support and yes we all need to come together on this. Keep up the good work - I know myself how hard it is to get through to the so called powers that be.
thanks again
Defra has agreed to the introduction of a voluntary code of practice on TB surveillance and herd accreditation for alpaca and llama owners. The code will also include pre- and post-movement TB testing and the recording of camelid movements.
There will also be a consultation on statutory compensation for alpacas and llamas that are slaughtered for TB control in a bid to encourage owners to take a more proactive role in dealing with the disease. In addition, Defra has announced a wider consultation on TB control measures for non-bovine species.
The Alpaca TB Support Group has confirmed that the second stage of their privately funded PCR proof of concept study is now complete and the results are encouraging .
The first stage tested faeces and sputum taken from animals with gross lesions - this achieved a high sensitivity - with no false positives. The second stage was on samples from animals with much less advanced pathology. The following is from the Alpaca TB Support Group website.
'AHVLA scientists have now looked at the whole spectrum of pathology from minimal to severe that is found in camelid M. bovis infections. The results are very promising and far better than we had expected.'
'The test was able to detect nearly all of the camelids with the most severe pathology with a falling sensitivity as pathology became less severe. They were even able to detect some camelids that had minimal pathology.'
'The faecal samples were marginally more sensitive than nasal swabs. Due to the difficulty in collecting blood from a dead camelid, AHVLA were not able to evaluate blood samples as they were unable to collect sufficient suitable samples for testing.'
In the Spring (2012) over 400 of alpacas were slaughtered on a single site in southern England because of a bovine TB (bTB) outbreak in the herd. The slaughter took place between April 11 and 13 at premises near Haywards Heath, in East Sussex.
This represented an unprecedented outbreak in a single alpaca herd. It is understood the herd was owned by US-based company Alpacas of America, which, according to its website, supplies animals internationally to the UK, Australia, Canada and Switzerland. Animals from the Sussex herd are understood to have been sold within the UK and to mainland Europe.
Official Defra figures show 53 alpaca and llama herds had been confirmed with bTB in Britain up to September 2011, although there is a suspicion that not every case has been reported over the years.
There is, however, no official record of the number of animals slaughtered as result of the disease as Defra’s official figures for ‘non-bovines’ only record the positive sample or samples that has confirmed the outbreak, not other animals subsequently slaughtered.
Defra has been criticised from within the alpaca community, including by Dianne Summers, (who contracted bTB herself this year) for under-estimating the scale of the problem and for failing to impose tough enough TB rules on camelid owners.
Ms Summers, who has campaigned on the issue for a number of years, has called for camelids to be treated in the same way as other farmed livestock when it comes to disease restrictions.
“Things have got to change. Somebody has got to sort out the problem in alpacas. The fact that we can refuse tests and the disease is only found in herds if we have a postmortem means innocent people are being sold these animals when they are riddled with TB,” she said. However, there is currently no reliable test for camelids as the skin and blood tests are even more unreliable for this species than they are for cattle.
Defra has sought to justify the lack of restrictions on camelids by arguing that these animals aren’t thought to be major carriers in spreading the disease.
A Defra spokesman said the Department was currently reviewing the control measures for non-bovines.
“We provide the same advice to owners of non-bovines as we do to the owners of cattle,” he said.
“We work with the owners of non-bovines, such as alpacas, to test animals where TB is suspected, and come to an agreement with them to slaughter the animals that prove positive, pay compensation and put measures in place that are felt necessary.”
While there is no official compensation figure, it is understood that in most cases owners receive £750 for each animal slaughtered because of bTB.
Interesting snippet from Planning mag's Casebook (Sept 2012, Issue 1943) relating to an appeal case for a mobile home at an alpaca farm in Glos. The appeal was lost and of interest was the planning inspector's reference to bTB:
'In particular, he noted, the site lay on an area affected by bovine tuberculosis, to which alpacas are specially vulnerable. The business plan failed to include the potential loss of some animals to the disease and the likely costs of veterinary bills, he said.'
Email question from C 21/10/10
Do you know about bTB in camelids?
If they are an end host do they not pass it on and if not why not? This may acount for why tesing and premovement testing is not suggested for non bovines, but I am not clear about the mechanisims involved.
Any help appreciated.
We responded by referring her to the September issue of Gwlad, where WAG advises that for such dead end hosts as camelids the disease is usually mild (not so according to some cases) and the animals are unlikely to pose any further risk of disease spread. However, it would seem that the real answer is that no-one seems to know. It is clear that in their native areas they are very hardy and have good resistance to bTB. Here is seems to be a different matter (brings to mind situation re possums in NX - same species as Australia where they do not appear to get bTB?).
There are an increasing number of camelids in the UK and it is very clear that whilst is it accepted the existing test is not that reliable for cattle it would appear to be even worse for camelids. Until this situation is resolved it is unlikely we can ever expect to eradicate the disease and any improvements will not be sustainable.
Emailed response (23/10/10) from Gina (www.alpacatb.org)
Sadly, whatever we have thought historically about TB in alpacas, data from the last 3 years would demonstrate that they can be highly susceptible to bovine TB, die from it (often without showing much in the way of illness first) and readily spread it to each other. See our website for the full story; based on data from UK farms in the last 3 years, so much more relevant than South American data. (Incidentally M.bovis is killed by UV light, and there's a lot of that in the Andes, less in the UK, I think you would agree, especially in winter and wet summers.) www.alpacatb.org
We asked the alpaca experts (/www.alpacatb.org) the following questions (email 14/10/10)
1. Has there been any progress for a BCG vaccination for alpacas yet?
2. The individual the subject of the video (alpaca shown with symptoms of coughing and higher than expected breathing rate), what would have been the likely scenario if it had been left to live? Would it have died? Would it have recovered? Could it have been treated successfully at that stage?
Response email from Gina (vet) 14/10/10
The BCG vaccine has been found to be effective in cattle and badgers as well as humans, so may well work in camelids BUT it's not legal to use it at present. This is partly because it is not known what effect vaccination would have on TB tests and we don't yet have a test which can distinguish between infected and vaccinated animals.
The animal suffering side effects may well have apparently recovered (most did, a few died) but all of them turned out to have rampant TB, so showing side effects was a better predictor of TB infection than the result of the skin test.
Treatment is strongly discouraged by Defra because it's not possible to say whether the animal is cured, infected, infectious or what.
The effectiveness rate of BCG I've heard in a talk from John Montague (senior Defra vet) is 70% for cattle, humans and badgers, and protection is hoped to be lifelong. 70% still leaves 30% of subjects at risk so not brilliant, but will damp down the infection in a population.
When I said the affected animals (meaning those who suffered side effects after being given the tuberculin test) apparently recovered, I mean that they appeared normal again, not that they were cured in any way. (Remember that most alpacas with TB look quite normal.) So although they do indeed lead a normal life, sadly they are infected, infectious and will eventually die of TB.

A report in the Veterinary Record July 17th 2010, under the Surveillance section (during May 2010) mentions an adult alpaca from a herd with previous confirmed tuberculosis (TB) due to Mycobacterium bovis which was submitted by Animal Health as a TB test reactor. On postmortem examination, three mesenteric lymph nodes were found to be enlarged, with thick caseous material apparent on cross-sectioning. No other visible lesions were detected, and a pool of head lymphh nodes plus lesioned mesenteric lymph nodes were submitted for mycobacterial culture. Following extended culture, colonies were isolated and identified as Mycobacterium microti. The natural hosts and reservoirs of M microti are small rodents, and spillover into cats has been suggested. Sporadic cases have also been reported in New World camelids and other species.

Sally (Guest)
Dianne Summers of the Camelids TB Support Group has responded by advising that all UK Cases of TB in camelids so far have been from UK strain types. She says there are no cases of TB in camelids in the UK of TB from another country.
David (Guest)
Just a thought - certainly there are increasing numbers of alpacas and other camelids being kept by people where I live in the south of England. There have been publicised cases of tb in these species. Are these species tested if they come in from abroad? If not and disease is in any imported to this country could this be contributing to outbreaks in some areas? Has anyone worked out if the areas where tb is now said to be endemic are in areas with high or growing populations of camelids?
Sally (Guest)
Thanks for the kind words Dianne. Keep us posted about your progress please. :yahoo:

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