Scottish veterinary diagnostic testing company Biobest Laboratories Ltd, collaborating with veterinary experts at the University of Edinburgh, has developed and improved a diagnostic test that will help in the diagnosis of mycobacterial disease in cats, including bovine and human tuberculosis (TB).

Mycobacterial infections are a common problem in feline medicine and are estimated to affect up to 8,000 of the 8 million domestic cats in the UK. These infections are caused by a number of different Mycobacteria, each of which has substantial differences in the prognosis for the cat, and the potential infectious risk to human contacts.

Dr Paul Burr, Managing Director at Biobest, comments:

"We had developed an assay for the diagnosis of feline mycobacterial disease, but it was essential to establish ranges and interpretation guidelines for this test. We therefore sought the expertise of renowned veterinary experts at the University of Edinburgh to analyse a case series using their detailed understanding of the disease and ability to obtain clinical details from referring veterinary practices."

Professor Danièlle Gunn-Moore, Professor of Feline Medicine at the University of Edinburgh's Hospital for Small Animals on the Easter Bush Campus, is an acknowledged global expert in feline mycobacterial disease and has published widely in this field.

An early version of the test is already available to UK veterinary practices, allowing Professor Gunn-Moore to examine existing case and test data from 115 cases where the test had been used in diagnosing feline mycobacterial disease in the context of the full clinical picture.

Reports generated for the 115 cases, enabled Biobest to set more appropriate cut offs for the test and with these cut offs calculate meaningful sensitivities and specificities.

This has improved the vet's ability to interpret the test results in the context of clinical cases, as well as increase the scientific credibility of the test in the veterinary market. Biobest and the University hope to publish the case series in the near future.

Michaela Turner, Consultancy Executive at the University's commercial arm, Edinburgh Research and Innovation, said:

"This project was made possible through the Innovation voucher scheme provided by the Scottish Funding Council. It has allowed the University to work with a wide range of SME partners that weren't previously engaging. The follow on voucher introduced in 2011 is now allowing the relationships to develop helping Scottish SMEs gain a competitive edge in innovation."

Professor Gunn-Moore and Biobest Laboratories have just been awarded a BBSRC CASE Studentship to fund a four-year PhD student to continue investigating diagnostic tests for feline (and canine) mycobacterial infections.