Technological advances in veterinary diagnostics: opportunities to deploy rapid decentralised tests to detect pathogens affecting livestock.

Sustainable food production capable of feeding a growing human population is a significant global challenge, and is a priority encompassed within the United Nations Millennium Development Goals to ‘eradicate extreme poverty and hunger’. Infectious diseases reduce the productivity of farm animals, and the globalised trade of animals and their products increases the threat of disease incursion. Accurate and rapid diagnostic tests are an essential component of contingency plans to detect, control and eradicate such diseases. Diagnosis involves a ‘pipeline’ that normally starts with clinical suspicion, followed by collecting samples, transporting specimens to a centralised laboratory setting (e.g. national/international Reference Laboratories), analysing these samples using a range of diagnostic tests and reporting the results. However, the transport of specimens from the field to the laboratory can be a lengthy process that can delay critical decision-making and severely affect the quality of the samples. This important limitation of centralised diagnostic testing has motivated the development of tools for rapid, simple detection of livestock pathogens. Recent advances in the development of technologies for personalised human medicine have motivated the development of prototype diagnostic tests for a wide selection of diseases of livestock. However, many of these tests are not yet used routinely or are commercially available. This paper critically reviews the most promising examples of such assays, and highlights the challenges that remain to transition these tests from applied research and development into routine use.

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