BioChek launches real-time biosecurity diagnostic tool

Learn more about Biochek's diagnostic offering
calendar icon 27 April 2023
clock icon 5 minute read

Dr. David Pyburn, Swine Business Unit Director with BioChek, spoke to Global Ag Media’s Sarah Mikesell at the 2022 Leman Swine Conference in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA.

Who is BioChek?

BioChek was formed in 1977 bringing health to a higher standard together with poultry and swine veterinarians and veterinary laboratories is its mission.

“BioChek is a company that I joined about a year ago,” said Dr. David Pyburn. “BioChek performs poultry and swine diagnostics.”

Most of BioChek’s diagnostics have been done in Europe, Asia and South Africa. BioChek has done some poultry diagnostics in the last seven to eight years in the United States selling PCRs and ELISAs into the diagnostic system.

“Up until now, BioChek has not done much with swine diagnostics, and they need to establish a swine strategy for the Americas,” he said. “That's why they hired me to look at how they could integrate themselves into the swine and industry across all the Americas.”

Product line offered by BioChek

BioChek offers traditional products like the PCR and ELISA tests for swine and poultry.

“PCR is used as an analyzer for things like PRRS, ASF, CSF, influenza, salmonella, mycoplasma and mycoplasma multiplex,” said Dr. Pyburn. “It will discover all three of the mycoplasmas with one test, making it a very popular test. There's an APP multiplex test that we also sell and our PRRS ELISA is an excellent source of data on when to vaccinate and the effectiveness of the vaccine within your herd.”

BioChek has all the traditional swine diagnostic products, but they have several sister companies that are held by the same holding group.

“This allows us to look at other technologies that our sister companies have to improve and extend our services,” said Dr. Pyburn.

One of those sister companies that joined the group is Hygiena, which is a food safety company in California, USA.

“I looked at products they were using in food processing and hospitals for cleanliness and biosecurity verification,” said Dr. Pyburn. “And I said, ‘Why are we not using this in the swine industry?’ So now BioChek is bringing the VetAssure Monitoring System in-house and using it with the ag industries, including swine and poultry.”

ATP Monitoring

“Our new product is called VetAssure,” said Dr. Pyburn. “It’s a swabbing system for ATP, the energy source of all cells, except viruses, but of all eukaryotic prokaryotic cells.”

The system detects the amount of ATP on any area that you swab. The biosecurity verification can identify if transports or the inside of buildings need to be re-cleaned or if staff need to shower before they enter the facilities.

“You just swab an area such as the back of a hand, the back of a truck, or a feeder or nipple and put the swab in a luminometer,” said Dr. Pyburn. “Then run a 10-second test on the luminometer, and you'll get an ATP reading.”

A higher ATP reading, which is measured in residual light units, will tell the producer if more ATP is left behind where cleaning has occurred and needs to be recleaned.

“It's a way that we can quantify how well we cleaned a surface or area,” said Dr. Pyburn. “It can basically test any area that we clean within the industry, including people.”


Biosecurity is critical to keeping out disease.

“The presentations at this conference suggest that to implement biosecurity across the industry, it's going to take a change in culture and human behavior.”

BioChek has performed some pilot projects with implementing biosecurity measures in South Africa, where their issue was laborers coming to work dirty.

“The mindset of their labor is, ‘I'm going to work in a pig facility. Why would I shower before I go?’,” said Dr. Pyburn. “We used this system to be able to check on their cleanliness, and we showed them their score. Anytime you score someone, most want to continually improve their scores.”

This was true on the South African farms - the laborers wanted to continue to improve which resulted in an improved biosecurity practice and a change in human mindset and behavior.

“Producers could incentivize employees to be the best at cleaning the trailer, be the best at cleaning down the barn or for maintaining high personal hygiene,” said Dr. Pyburn.

The data could be tracked in a cloud-based database and analyzed over time to identify how well the program is working. This data would show producers if they were continuing to improve and allow the producer to quantify the results to monitor biosecurity procedures.

Biosecurity with outside contractors

At the conference, there was a lot of discussion about outside contractors coming into swine facilities and that they may not be aware of biosecurity protocols.

“Using the VetAssure monitoring system would allow a producer to score how clean they are,” said Dr. Pyburn. “The testing provides instant results.”

It offers a quick 10-second readout. Results are ‘real time’ and you can make decisions to keep your biosecurity intact.

“For example, with transports right now, some people are using cultures to test for exposure,” said Dr. Pyburn. “They're touching culture plates and agar plates, maybe in five or six different spots in the trailer to see if it’s clean.”

There are a couple of problems with that type of testing, he said. Every time and place you touch the trailer with agar, you could have left residual bacteria that might grow and flourish. The other problem with the culture testing is that it takes at least 24 hours to incubate.

“Using culture testing does not allow you to prevent anything from entering your facilities unless you want to hold until test results are available. Getting outcomes later results in what I call ‘the blaming system’,” he explained. “VetAssure is a 10 second read out leaving behind no nutrients for the bacteria. It allows you to make a decision on the spot to prevent disease.”

The same could be said for equipment that contractors are bringing in or your own employees’ things that are moving on the farm that can be a source of contamination.

“Anything that we want to test for cleanliness,” said Dr. Pyburn. “This is a way to score how clean it is. This testing can provide evidence that certain standards must be met before entry would be allow into the facility.”

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