There has been widespread media reporting of the post-mortem results of the alpaca Geronimo which has twice tested positive for bovine tuberculosis (TB) using highly accurate tests.
Experienced veterinary pathologists from the Government’s Animal and Plant Health Agency completed the initial post-mortem examination and found a number of TB-like lesions. It is therefore not true to say no signs of TB were found.
A lesion is an area of tissue that has been damaged through disease. In some cases, the microscopic lesions of TB in the affected organs can take a very long time to progress to larger, visible lesions, if at all. It is therefore significant to find these signs.
Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Christine Middlemiss said:
We have completed the initial post-mortem examination of Geronimo.
“A number of TB-like lesions were found and in line with standard practice these are now undergoing further investigation.
“These tests include the developing of bacteriological cultures from tissue samples which usually takes several months - we would expect to complete the full post-mortem and culture process by the end of the year .
Mycobacterium bovis can be cultured (grown) in the laboratory from clinical samples, usually from tissue samples collected post mortem. The culture process takes some time as the bTB bacterium grows slowly. It requires special expertise and safety facilities, which means that culture can only be carried out in specialist laboratories, and it is not always successful even in lab conditions. It is only after growth in the laboratory that the species of Mycobacterium isolated can be identified.
bTB is a dangerous zoonotic disease. Our control strategy seeks to eliminate the disease in suspected animals to protect public health. Further information on the need to eradicate bovine TB can be found in our APHA science blog.