Life Technologies Corporation assembled a cross-section of industry stakeholder experts to discuss with state veterinarians the need for consensus on standardization of regulations and diagnostic laboratory testing methodology for trichomoniasis (trich) at the 2013 USAHA Annual Meeting in San Diego.
Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted disease in cattle with significant economic consequences to beef producers resulting from infertility and embryonic loss in cows and heifers. Bulls are the carrier of this disease but show no outward signs of infection. There’s no treatment for infected bulls, so diagnostic testing of bulls before exposure to females plays a crucial role in managing trich.
To control trich within and across state lines, states have regulations to help producers and veterinarians comply with health requirements. Unfortunately, there’s wide variation in these defined regulations and testing procedures among states, which causes confusion, additional handling of animals, and varying diagnostic test results, according to Jeff Baxter, Senior Product Manager, Life Technologies.
“Finding common ground on the harmonization of trich regulations and testing procedures would help beef producers economically by eliminating repeated or unnecessary testing and reducing the danger to animals and handlers,” said Baxter. “The primary goal of our conversations with state veterinarians is to build confidence with all stakeholders that the best diagnostic testing technology is being used to accurately identify trich-positive bulls. Defining the need for regulation harmonization and testing is the first point of clarity in this conversation accomplished in hosting this event. The next step is to find common ground with those states open to building consensus on points of agreement. Working closely with state veterinarians, cattlemen’s associations, and their respective state diagnostic labs can help us arrive at solutions based on sound science that economically benefit beef producers.”
NCBA advocating for regulation harmonization
Kathy Simmons, DVM, chief veterinarian of National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), said the association’s membership has directed the leadership to help facilitate the harmonization of trich regulations between states. She said NCBA recently compiled information on the various state trich regulations determining 50 percent (25 states) have regulations.
Simmons said these varying and ever-changing rules between states make compliance difficult for veterinarians and producers, who often plan cattle testing and movement in advance.
“Harmonized state trich regulations for the interstate movement of cattle would facilitate cattle movement at the speed of commerce,” Dr. Simmons said. “Well-defined, thoughtful and mutually accepted testing procedures for trich between adjoining states could eliminate redundant testing procedures and reduce the danger to animals and handlers from repeated or unnecessary testing.”
According to Baxter, individual state trich regulations often define which testing procedures are accepted. Most states accept culture or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test results. Typically testing is done either by collecting up to three cultures during a three-week period or by providing a single culture for real-time PCR testing.
“Certainly, conducting one real-time PCR test as opposed to collecting three cultures is easier, less invasive and less dangerous for the animal and handler,” added Baxter. All 25 states with trich regulations have validated the use of PCR as an officially accepted diagnostic test. Because of better technology improvements in the overall laboratory workflow, some states have taken the next step in defining PCR as the only official test allowed for compliance.
New Kansas trich regulations require PCR testing
Bill Brown, DVM, Kansas Animal Health Commissioner, spoke about the state’s recent enactment of new, more comprehensive trich regulations for the intrastate change of ownership and interstate movement and diagnostic testing of cattle. Dr. Brown appointed a trich working group comprised of four veterinarians and four beef producers to spearhead the evaluation in improving the management of trich in the state of Kansas. The group, charged with developing science-based regulations, has gathered information and opinions from more than 2,200 livestock producers and industry professionals attending 30 meetings throughout the state.
Some of the most notable changes require veterinarians to be certified to test for trich, require 14 days of sexual rest for bulls, require all positive bulls to be slaughtered, and recognize real-time PCR as the only official diagnostic test accepted in the state.
“There was a lot of talk about cultures versus PCR testing,” said Dr. Brown. “Our working group wondered why producers and veterinarians were getting bulls in once a week for three weeks, when one PCR test will take care of it. At the end of the day, everyone was on board with doing a single PCR test, which most producers in Kansas are comfortable with.”
For more information about the new Kansas trich regulations, please visit the Kansas Department of Agriculture website.
Practicing veterinarian calls for testing standardization
From a hands-on perspective, practicing veterinarian Jeremy VanBoening, DVM, Republican Valley Animal Center in Alma, Neb., shared his insight being on the front line of dealing with varying state trich regulations, accepted testing procedures, and a wide array of recommended sample-handling procedures for trich. Beginning in 2008, trich cases in Nebraska noticeably increased for about two years, prompting the Nebraska Cattlemen Association to discuss how best to protect its members’ herds, resulting in the implementation of state regulations for trich.
VanBoening has discovered great variability in recommended sample-handling protocols among state diagnostic laboratories. Labs varied on whether or not samples needed to be incubated, whether or not to put on ice, how the samples are shipped and the labs’ preferred collection media. VanBoening says standardizing lab recommendations for sample collection and handling would greatly improve the quality of samples submitted for testing.
“States also need to come to agreement on adopting only the best diagnostic testing technology available, which I believe is quantitative PCR using chemical lysis and internal controls,” said Dr. VanBoening. “We need our diagnostic labs to use these workflow procedures to ensure we’re getting back the very best tests results possible. And most importantly, we need to keep increasing veterinarian and producer awareness about the economic impact of trich with the goal of keeping everyone vigilant in managing this disease.”
Baxter said Life Technologies is excited to collaborate with all stakeholders in the beef industry to open the dialog on the need for harmonization of trich regulations.
“It’s clear from these conversations there is a movement to find common ground for developing consistent trich regulations, sample handling and testing procedures across states with the goal of building confidence in the testing process among veterinarians and producers,” concluded Baxter.