Bovine tuberculosis (bTB), caused by Mycobacterium bovis, represents a major animal health issue. In the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, European badgers (Meles meles) have been shown to act as a reservoir of M. bovis infection, hindering the eradication of bTB in livestock. The availability of suitable diagnostic assays, particularly those that may be applied in a “trap-side” setting, would facilitate the implementation of a wider range of disease control strategies. Here we evaluate the Dual Path Platform (DPP) VetTB assay, a lateral-flow type test for detecting antibodies to M. bovis antigens (MPB83 and ESAT-6/CFP-10). Both serum and whole blood were evaluated as diagnostic samples. Additionally, two methods were evaluated for interpretation of test results (qualitative interpretation by eye and quantitative measurement using an optical reader). The antibody response to MPB83 detected by the DPP VetTB assay increased significantly following experimental M. bovis infection of badgers, whilst the response to ESAT-6/CFP-10 showed no significant change. In sera from TB-free captive and naturally M. bovis infected wild badgers the MPB83 response exhibited a sensitivity of 55 % by eye and quantitative reader (95 % CI: 40-71 and 38-71, respectively), with slightly lower specificity when read by eye (93 % compared to 98 %; 95 % CI: 85-100 and 90-100, respectively). In whole blood, the DPP VetTB assay MPB83 response exhibited a sensitivity of 65 % (95 % CI: 50-80) when interpreted by eye and 53 % (95 % CI: 36-69) using quantitative values, whilst the specificity was 94 % and 98 % respectively (95 % CI: 88-100 and 90-100). Comparison with contemporaneous diagnostic test results from putatively naturally infected and TB-free badgers demonstrated varying levels of agreement. Using sera from naturally M. bovis infected and TB-free badgers, with post mortem confirmation of disease status, the DPP VetTB assay exhibited a sensitivity of 60 % (95 % CI: 41-77) when interpreted using quantitative values (specificity 95 %; 95 % CI: 76-100), and 67 % (95 % CI: 50-84) when read by eye (specificity 95 %; 95 % CI: 86-100). Further work is required to robustly characterize the DPP VetTB assay’s performance in a wider selection of samples, and in the practical and epidemiological contexts in which it may be applied.
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