HC Deb 08 July 2002 vol 388 cc694-7W
Mr. Lidington

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the conclusions were of the meeting on 12 June of the Independent Scientific Group on Bovine TB. [65468]

Margaret Beckett

[holding answer 1 July 2002]The Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB (ISG) met on 12 June in London as part of its normal schedule of meetings. The group noted progress on the Krebs field trial, including recent proactive culling operations in Cornwall and Gloucestershire, and discussed future work programmes. There was discussion of arrangements to increase collections in the Road Traffic Accident survey of badger carcases for TB and for clearing the backlog of epidemiological questionnaires (TB99) following delays arising from the foot and mouth disease emergency. Consideration was given to additional measures to combat the spread of bovine TB and action outside trial areas. The group reviewed its programme for analysing and interpreting data from cattle TB 'hotspots' outside trial areas, data on inconclusive reactors and data on the gamma interferon test, and confirmed its intention to finalise a report by the autumn.

Various research activities were discussed including a report on post genomic research on M.bovis at the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) and recently published research by VLA on the pathology in cattle following M.bovis BCG vaccination against experimental bovine TB.

A summary of ISG agendas and notes of meetings is published on DEFRA's website at http://defraweb/animal/tb/tb/.

Table 1—Tb incidents in Great Britain in 2002—herds
Date Total TB tests on herds1 Herds under movement restriction2 Tests on unrestricted herds3 Of which:New herd incidents4 Of which:New confirmed herd incidents5 Tests on unrestricted herds resulting in a confirmed new herd incident6(percentage)
January 2002 3,280 1,107 2,952 196 115 3.9
February 2002 4,747 1,381 4,423 366 7222–238 75.0–5.4
March 2002 5,012 1,617 4,670 316 74.0–4.4
Figures are provisional and subject to revision.
1 Herds for which tuberculin skin testing is carried out on at least one animal during the period shown.
2 Herds restricted at any time during the period shown due to a TB incident.
3 Any tests carried out during the period shown on a herd which was not already under restriction due to a TB incident. Also any cases found, during the period shown, by routine inspection at the slaughterhouse of animals from a herd not already under restriction.
4 Herds which were previously TB free but either had cattle that reacted to a tuberculin test or had a tuberculous animal disclosed by routine inspection at slaughter, during the period shown.
5 New herd incidents (column 4) for which at least one animal was subsequently confirmed to have TB.
6 Column 5 as a percentage of column 3.
7 Estimates for February and March 2002 are given as a range as a number of the test results are still awaited. It is expected that the final figure, when available, will fall within this range.


DEFRA's Animal Health Database

Table 2—Detailed Tb raw data: 1 January-31 May 2002 Great Britain
West North East Total for England Total for Wales Total for Scotland Total for GB
(a) Total number of herd tests 8,140 4,271 1,576 13,987 3,903 2,309 20,199
(b) Herds under TB2 restrictions because of a TB incident at some time during the reporting period 1,454 171 32 1,657 421 57 2,135
(d) Total new herd TB incidents 820 129 17 966 226 32 1,224
(e) of which are considered confirmed new TB incidents (i.e. CNIs) 472 69 5 546 116 9 671


In using and interpreting table 2 the following points should be noted:

A proportion of TB incidents remain unclassified, awaiting the results of culture tests which can take several months. Therefore the number of confirmed incidents, for 2002 in particular, will currently be under-recorded. For instance, 9 per cent. of new TB incidents in January to May 2002 were unclassified when the data were extracted.

The number of TB incidents depends on the number of tests carried out and on the nature of the testing regime at the time (as well as on the underlying prevalence of the disease). In 2002, testing resources are being concentrated on herds which are overdue their tests (because of the backlog following the foot and mouth disease outbreak) and which have therefore had a longer period than usual in which to contract the disease. Those currently being tested also contain a higher than usual proportion of high risk herds. During the FMD outbreak, TB testing was significantly reduced and necessarily targeted to higher risk herds e.g. those tested following routine inspection of animals at slaughterhouses. At any time, the more herds are tested, the more likely you are to find TB.

It is therefore very difficult to assess the underlying trends at this time.

Any reactors, inconclusive reactors and direct contacts still awaiting removal and slaughter on the date of the data download were not included in the tables. These only show the number of reactors, inconclusive reactors and direct contacts that had been slaughtered as at 11 June.

Mr. Lidington

To ask the secretary of state for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many(a) total TB tests on herds, (b) herds under movement restriction, (c) tests on unrestricted herds, (d) new herd incidents and (e) unrestricted herds, (d) new herd incidents and (e) new confirmed herd incidents there were in each county between 1 January and 30 March, and what percentage of tests on unrestricted herds in each county resulted in a confirmed herd incident. [65474]

Margaret Beckett

[holding answer 1 July 2002]The information is not available in the format requested. A statistical summary for Great Britain as a whole for the period 1 January to 30 March is given in table 1.

A more detailed breakdown of the information requested in sub-points (a), (b), (d) and (e) is given in table 2. This is broken down by State Veterinary Service region for the period 1 January to 31 May. Statistics for unrestricted herds (sub-point (c)) are not available in the same format.

All the statistics given are available on the DEFRA website at: http://defraweb/animalh/tb/default.htm.

Mr. Lidington

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on progress with Krebs trials in triplets I and J. [65475]

Margaret Beckett

[holding answer 1 July 2002]The planning of work in triplets I and J of the Krebs trial is proceeding in accordance with the timetable agreed with the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB. Under procedures applicable to all triplets designed to safeguard the safety of staff, details of current and future operations are not disclosed until they have been completed. A summary of the completed work for each triplet is shown on DEFRA's website at http://defraweb/animal/tb/tb/

Mr. Lidington

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what her target date is for eliminating the backlog of herd tests for Bovine TB. [65473]

Margaret Beckett

[holding answer 1 July 2002]The rolling nature of the backlog of herd testing for bovine TB makes it difficult for us to set a specific target for its elimination although we are working hard to address the backlog which currently stands at 20K. As overdue tests are cleared, more fall due and join the backlog. In addition as further incidents of TB are disclosed more testing is triggered.

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