Cranfield University in the U.K. is leading a project to develop wearable biosensors to help monitor the health of livestock, particularly dairy cows, with the aim of identifying brucellosis infection at an earlier stage.
In tandem, a portable test is being developed to allow a rapid confirmatory diagnosis of suspected cases, Cranfield said in an announcement. The U.K.-China project is funded by the U.K. Department of Health & Social Care (administered by Innovate UK). Cranfield is working with Scottish companies Biotangents and IceRobotics. Consortium partners in China include the Shanghai Veterinary Research Institute and Nanjing Agricultural University, with funding by the Chinese Ministry of Science & Technology.
According to Cranfield, IceRobotics livestock wearable sensors are non-invasively placed on livestock to monitor daily activities around the clock. Highly advanced processing of this information will help veterinarians closely monitor any changes in behavior that could be early indicators for illness and allow them to shortlist livestock at an early stage. Biotangents is also developing a portable diagnostic test that will be used to evaluate samples from shortlisted animals and confirm if brucellosis is present.
These two types of technology will form a shortlist-and-test diagnostic platform, Cranfield said. IceRobotics will work with Cranfield lecturer Dr. Jerry Luo to further develop data analysis for the disease of brucellosis, while Biotangents will work with Cranfield lecturer Dr. Iva Chianella to create the advanced diagnostic test using Biotangents’ proprietary platform diagnostics technology.
Luo, an expert in wearables and data mining, said, “The advanced data processing algorithm we’re developing will enable us to track individual cow health more accurately and report illness at a very early stage. This could be crucial in detecting changes in behaviors and pinpointing the diseased animal in the herd. Early intervention could prevent the disease spreading, so this really will be a vital tool for vets and livestock owners.”
“The molecular diagnostic device developed at Biotangents Ltd. is suitable for pen-side testing and will allow a quick and accurate identification of infectious diseases, such as brucellosis, in livestock. This avoids the long delay and difficulty of sending samples to a laboratory. After animals with behavioral patterns that may indicate infection have been spotted by the IceRobotics wearable sensors, their milk/serum will be analyzed in field using the Biotangents diagnostic device, obtaining an accurate diagnosis within two hours. This will permit quick identification of infected animals and, therefore, a prompt intervention, which will limit spread of the infection to other animals and humans (preventing outbreaks), with a positive impact on economic development and population health,” Chianella, an expert on biosensors technology, added.
Brucellosis is a highly contagious bacterial infection that primarily affects livestock but can also be passed onto humans. Infected cows have abnormal pregnancies and lose their calves. Cases of the disease have been increasing in China in both animals and people, and it is seen regularly in Ireland and other European countries, Cranfield explained.
The ambition for the project is to detect this infection earlier and allow swift interventions to control the spread of the disease and minimize the risk of transmission to people.
The three-year project is slated to conclude in 2022.