The Value of DiagnosticsTuesday, October 02, 2012
Infectious disease continues to be the biggest cause of economic loss for livestock farmers. At a time when input costs are high and margins are being squeezed, losses due to culling, poor growth, variability and treatment need to be minimised, if businesses are to realise their full potential, according to Life Technologies Corporation.
The financial benefits of a better understanding of disease status, along with the advent of new diagnostic tests based on molecular technology, has brought about a significant shift in the way diagnostics are being used by livestock farmers. The role of diagnostics has expanded from disease management into business management.
The speed and reliability of molecular tests means that diagnostics are increasingly being used to prevent and even predict disease issues in groups of animals. Their ability to detect infections before clinical signs have developed has given buyers an opportunity to screen new additions to their herds and thus enhance biosecurity; it has also provided an effective way of identifying and removing those animals with persistent, sub-clinical infections, which continue to infect other members of the herd or flock.
The days when farmers and veterinarians had to wait days or even weeks for test results are fast disappearing. Many of the new generation of tests can be conducted within hours, allowing management decisions to be made quickly - infected animals to be culled or quarantined - before issues get any worse.
As well as being fast, the test results are very reliable: accurately diagnosing the presence of infection with low levels of false positive or false negative results. So farmers can take herd management decisions knowing that they are not wasting time or money. The tests are also very specific, allowing the identification of different pathogen subtypes - again, allowing a more precise management decision to be made.
Sensitive and specific diagnostic tests are essential for disease surveillance and to support cost-effective and targeted deployment of control measures. Judicious use of diagnostics not only helps to reduce the disease impact on individual animals, but can also be used to develop strategic disease prevention programmes for entire herds or even entire regions. For example, vaccination schedules can be based on sound herd disease risk profiles, and disease eradication schemes implemented.
The ability to identify emerging diseases and detect changing patterns in existing diseases on a global scale is also a valuable tool for what is an increasingly global industry.
The growing availability and usefulness of modern diagnostic tests is reflected by the increasing availability of diagnostic laboratory services provided by universities, the state or independent commercial companies. This is also a reflection of the potential for the tests to improve not only animal health, but also business performance.
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This feature is provided by Life Technologies Corporation, a leading supplier of innovative biotechnology solutions.