SYDNEY, Australia – Researchers in Australia have developed a rapid diagnostic test for Johne's disease, Meat & Livestock Australia reported.

Johne's disease, paratuberculosis, is a contagious, chronic infection that can be fatal. It primarily affects the small intestine of ruminants. The bacteria causes diarrhea and wasting. The test is known as the High-Throughput-Johne's assay (HT-J). Researchers from the Univ. of Sydney and the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI). Work on the assay test was part of a five-year AUS$6.4 million project.

“This test is the culmination of at least a decade of very difficult research here and elsewhere,” said Prof. Richard Whittington, lead researcher on the project. “Most animals become infected with JD in the first one to 12 months of life, but don’t show signs of disease for years.

“They only shed minuscule amounts of bacteria in their feces, which makes it very hard to detect, but they are capable of infecting other animals and other properties if sold,” Whittington added. “The challenge for us has been to try and detect the smallest quantity of JD bacteria in fecal samples.”

MLA noted that developers refined the test following an outbreak of Bovine JD in North Queensland in November 2012.

Dr. Johann Schröder, MLA’s Animal Health and Biosecurity project manager, said the test enabled affected producers to more quickly adopt corrective/remedial management strategies.

“The more quickly you can get a JD diagnosis, the more quickly you can stop further spread of the disease,” Johann said. “It also reduces stress on producers – they no longer have to wait three months to find out if their property is affected or not.”