§ Sir John Farr
To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food why his Department's tests on deer imported from Hungary failed to spot the presence of tuberculosis; and what steps he is taking to improve the animal health evaluation techniques of his Department.
§ Mr. Donald Thompson
Some deer imported into this country in 1985 under Hungarian certification were subsequently found to be infected with tuberculosis and all were traced. Our import requirements at that time included pre-export testing by the country of origin and quarantine but not testing on arrival. Following the 1985 incident, the import controls were strengthened to require more stringent pre-export isolation and testing and post-import tuberculosis testing. No case of tuberculosis has been detected in deer which have been imported since January 1986.
The only validated test currently available for the diagnosis of tuberculosis in deer is the tuberculin test. It is recognised that this test is not as sensitive in deer as in cattle and, in consequence; its interpretation has been amended. When used at suitable intervals and interpreted in accordance with the revised guidelines, it remains the best method of detecting the disease in deer.
Research into an Elisa test has been carried out at the central veterinary laboratory while the Morodum research institute is looking at a lymphocyte transformation test, but it is too early to say if either could be used in the field.