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22 BC HOLSTEIN NEWS ❆ CHRISTMAS 2020
  A Fragment of DNA...
   Tars Cheema
Dr. Paul Adams is a molecular neuroscientist and geneticist who completed his PhD at UBC in 2010 before joining the Biomedical Engineering and Neuroscience Departments at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, conducting research on the genetic mechanisms underlying Parkinson’s Disease. He returned to the west coast in 2014, taking a position at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) where his focus became applied research in agriculture.
Paul is curious by nature. He’s a scientist - so no surprise there – but he’s willing to go looking at interesting mysteries and challenges, applying the latest sophisticated technologies. At KPU, Paul is the Scientific Director of the Applied Genomics Centre (AGC) and is focused on bringing advanced genetic tools, such as DNA sequencing, genotyping, pathogen detection and others, to animal and plant agriculture in the Fraser Valley region.
After commuting daily past WestGen’s office building, the DNA fragment visible from the highway finally got the better of the geneticist’s curiosity. Initial discussions with Chris Parry and others at WestGen centred on how the KPU AGC could provide genetic expertise and technologies to support the dairy industry. Through several candid conversations with Chris, Dr. Gordon Atkins (WEF Board member) and others, it was determined that Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) is a key area of concern for the dairy industry and improved testing and management strategies would provide practical, valuable results to the
industry, benefitting cattle producers. This identified priority was initiated as a research project at the AGC with funding secured from WEF, Boviteq, Semex and NSERC to develop a DNA-based test for M. bovis. Paul provides an impressive progress report below.
Research doesn’t always deliver a home run, but this looks very promising and could be a game-changer in dealing with mycoplasma in cattle herds far and wide!
      Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!
KPU AGC team collecting milk samples at a BC farm for M. bovis lab testing.
THE SILAGE EXPERTS
Testing Essential to Deal with Mycoplasma bovis
WestGen Helps Fund Local Research for DNA Test
Dr. Paul Adams, Scientific Director, KPU Bio-Innovation Lab
Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) is an antibiotic resistant bacterium that is increasing in prevalence world-wide on dairy and beef farms. M. bovis can cause significant disease symptoms, including mastitis, swollen joints, lameness, pneumonia, ear infections in calves, and reproductive disorders. The fact that M. bovis is resistant to treatment, and often difficult to diagnose, means that it has the potential to spread within a herd and cause significant damage when not detected and managed properly. Being able to reliably test for the presence of a pathogen is fundamental to any treatment, control or eradication program. Regular screening of bulk-tanks and symptomatic animals can be a first line of defense against M. bovis. Early detection allows farmers to remove infected animals before they can infect other members of the herd. Herd biosecurity measures also rely upon testing new animals before introducing them into a herd, to prevent M. bovis entering.
In an effort to improve detection and management of M. bovis in dairy herds, the Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) Applied Genomics Centre (AGC) has partnered with the WestGen Endowment Fund, Boviteq and Semex, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) to develop a new DNA based M. bovis test and testing protocols for Western Canadian dairy farms. Initial stages of the research have included in-laboratory testing and validation of the M. bovis test. Most recently, the KPU AGC has worked with Alberta and BC veterinarians and dairy farmers experiencing M. bovis outbreaks.
Strategic on-farm testing protocols in these herds have proven effective as low-cost methods of identifying M. bovis infected cows in large herds, permitting removal of diseased cows. Next stages of the research will include more on-farm testing with BC and Alberta dairy farms to optimize on-farm testing and disease management.
What is novel and unique about the new test under development is the use of quantitative PCR (qPCR) and TaqMan probes. These advanced genetic tools provide the most accurate means for M. bovis detection and are cheaper than bacteria culture. Furthermore, this particular test is being developed to distinguish between live and dead M. bovis, which is not typically achieved with other DNA-based tests. The ability to distinguish live from dead M. bovis in a sample can be important in distinguishing an active infection vs one that has diminished, or important in assessing if clinical treatment is helping or not. Furthermore, the test can help assess the effectiveness of pasteurization on eliminating M. bovis in milk before feeding to calves.
Developing the new test will be valuable for improving M. bovis detection in dairy cows, however, a critical component of the research project is to develop on-farm testing strategies and plans to manage M. bovis outbreaks. It is one thing to know if M. bovis is present on a farm, but what to do about it and how to manage the diseased cows is critical for achieving a positive outcome. In phase two of the project now underway through support from WEF and NSERC, the KPU AGC is working with WestGen, farmers and veterinarians to develop testing and management strategies that maximize effectiveness of the test, but also takes into consideration both financial and operational practicality for farmers. We believe the combination of an accurate M. bovis test using qPCR and the development of effective testing and management strategies will decrease the impact of M bovis on Western Canadian dairy farms.
The research and development work on M. bovis is an example of applied research that aims to provide practical solutions for real problems being experienced by dairy farmers in Western Canada. WestGen and the KPU AGC are committed to working on additional challenges faced by Western dairy farmers that can be used by the dairy community. For example, new projects are being developed with WEF and NSERC to develop better understanding, testing and management of Johne’s disease and metritis on Western Canadian dairy farms.
Severe joint swelling in M. bovis positive cow in BC.
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