Camelid TB Support & Research Group

For help and support                  

Help and Support for those affected by Bovine TB in Alpacas & Llamas

Email: Support@alpacatb.org

Thanks to over 30 members of the TB Support Group who have given their data and experiences of bTB in their herds. It is from the information gathered from the data provided by these members that has produced much of the advice contained on this website. Thank you. Also thanks to senior members of DEFRA/AH/and the VLA for working closely with the TB Support group. It is a relationship very much appreciated by  us all.

Welcome to the TB in Alpacas & Llamas Website

No images, data or any part of this website may be used for commercial purposes. Advice and information on this website is given in good faith. It is essential that you consult your Vet and/or AHO before making any decisions on diagnosis or treatment of your animals.  We make every effort to keep official documentation up to date but where guidance is given on official policies, please bear in mind they may have changed so you MUST check and confirm current policy and procedures with DEFRA/AH. Advice and updates will be posted as and when information becomes available to us.

Do your alpacas live in, or come from

 a high bTB risk area?

Pre movement testing is available - Test your new alpacas before you introduce them to your herd . See here

Click on the map above to visit the Defra interactive bTB map. You can enter your location (or the location of herds that you have contact with) by postcode and zoom in or out to see the prevalence of bTB in your area or the area where you are buying from, obtaining matings from or agisting your alpacas. Use the information to make your own informed choices and assess the risk to your herd.

84

APHA data shows that at the end of quarter four 2020 there were 84 camelid premises under restrictions for bTB.  Click here to visit Defra site.




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Tests are available to help protect your herd - test and quarantine before you introduce new animals. Remember - no test is a guarantee and biosecurity and risk assessment is as important as ever

The support group was started in response to many herds facing bTB breakdowns with no way out. The only test available at the time, the comparative skin test, reported a high number of false negatives, which although allowing herds to 'go clear', it often left hidden disease behind only to re-emerge months or years later. It also allowed herds to recommence selling their stock, resulting in other herds unwittingly being infected. In some cases, new start up herds found themselves dealing with bTB after acquiring their first alpacas. Several herds suffered total loss as the disease reached a level where the animals developed disease and died while the skin test passed them clear. In a severe confirmed breakdown a blood test was offered, although it was not compulsory and some herds chose to 'go clear' on the unreliable skin test. Some herds had a repeated restricted then clear bTB problem for years.

Initially, the Support Group took a combative stance with some parts of Government, with an initial goal of getting them to accept that the skin test did not work in camelids, and to accept that bTB was a serious and growing problem in alpacas and llamas. It took years before it became accepted that the skin test is at best 15% sensitive, in practice probably less. Defra now accept that the skin test is very poor at detecting disease if present.

In 2014 new blood tests were made available for herds outside of a breakdown. This followed research part funded by the three camelid societies. Key to this research were the volunteer herds from perceived TB free areas, who agreed to have their animals blood tested, sacrificing some of these animals for the cause. The tests that emerged are fully validated for use in camelids.

Outside of a breakdown as a voluntary test, blood tests can be applied in different ways which will give differing sensitivity (ability to find the disease). Used on their own, the sensitivity is just over 50% - so perhaps just over half of animals with disease will be detected. Used in this way the specificity is high so reducing the risk of a false positive.   The animal can be 'primed' with a PPD - purified protein derivative - made from the bacteria, (obviously not the bacteria itself). This enhances the sensitivity, but slightly increases the risk of a false positive. In a breakdown, or if required to carry out contiguous or radial testing, alpacas are required to be primed to give the best chance of finding infected anilmals. In a confirmed breakdown, false negatives have the potential to kill far more alpacas than false positives.

Another change was the compulsion to test (previously herds could refuse to engage with Defra) which meant that herds with ongoing bTB no longer repeatedly re-emerge from restrictions and unwittingly pass or sell the disease on.

An issue with testing is that the better a test is at detecting disease, the less some alpaca owners seem to believe it. A test that only detects advanced disease is of no use, as by then the disease is likely to have spread within the herd or to other herds, wildlife, livestock or people. A 'perfect' test would detect the disease perhaps years before it went on to develop, so on post mortem there would be nothing to see - this is incorrectly deemed to be a false positive in the eyes of many. Whilst accepting that there is always a small risk of a false positive, isn’t it worth considering that the disease has not had time to go on to develop the lesions seen in advanced disease that may take years to grow? As has been shown alpacas can show no symptoms with massive loss of lung capacity to TB lesions - we want to find them before that stage to protect others and prevent suffering. If a test only detected the presence of disease at that stage it is too late to protect the rest of the herd. Even when lesions are present, it is notoriously difficult to culture bTB. This is reported in human as well as veterinary research.

The prospect of vaccination is on the horizon, but could be years away yet, and will it be offered to camelids? Will it work in camelids? There is unlikely to be extensive research unless the camelid community pays for it. If  it is rolled out, presumably it will be many years before animals with existing TB will die out of the national herd, and what will the level of uptake be? In humans, according to the NHS website, "the BCG vaccination is thought to protect up to 80% of people against the most severe forms of TB for at least 15 years".

BTB in Camelids 2021 - The importance of blood tests

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