PENICUIK-BASED veterinary diagnostics firm Biotangents is working on new sensing technology to help detect common infections in livestock and reduce the use of antibiotics in farming.

Common infections in dairy and beef cattle, such as bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD), can cause serious immune suppression, bovine pneumonia and calf mortality, and often expensive treatment of secondary infections with antibiotics.

In collaboration with the University of Strathclyde and CENSIS, Biotangents is developing an electrochemical sensing system to upgrade its prototype on-farm testing equipment. Currently, the kit is used to test for BVD and relies on individual interpretation of test results, but this could be replaced by the updated technology, providing a more definitive result.

Historically, diagnostic test results for livestock diseases could take up to one week to be returned from a central lab. However, Biotangents’ test system can produce BVD test results on the same day and potentially within one hour. By allowing vets to extract DNA from a blood sample on site and detect infection quickly, any affected animals can be isolated quickly for remedial action, preventing the spread of disease. The point-of-care test also aims to make the use of antibiotics more targeted, lessening the risk of livestock resistance to treatments.

Biotangents are aiming for future iterations of the Moduleic Sensing system to be able to test for a number of different infections and diseases at the same time, from BVD to mastitis. The business recently secured £1.5 million of new investment for the development of its technology, following a second round of fundraising.