Science group to tackle NZ's Mycoplasma bovis

Thursday, 16 August, 2018

Science group to tackle NZ&#39;s <em>Mycoplasma bovis</em>

The Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) has set up a science advisory group to help eradicate Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) in New Zealand.

The Strategic Science Advisory Group, which met for the first time on 31 July 2018, will provide scientific advice to the Mycoplasma bovis Governance Group, and will enable current science activities to be scaled up and expanded.

“The advisory group will ensure we have ongoing access to some of the best minds and knowledge relating to M. bovis, which will bolster the eradication effort,” said Roger Smith, Head of Biosecurity New Zealand and Chair of the Mycoplasma bovis Governance Group.

The group will contribute their expertise on a range of science matters, including: identifying critical knowledge gaps and ways to address them, including considering emerging technologies and ideas that may help eradicate M. bovis; prioritisation of M. bovis research efforts; coordination of current and future science initiatives; learning from national and international research programs; and providing assurance that M. bovis eradication research efforts remain fit for purpose.

M. bovis can cause a range of health issues in cattle, including mastitis, arthritis, pneumonia and late-term abortions, but is not a food safety risk for humans. The disease can be dormant and present no symptoms, which allows it to easily spread unnoticed. For this reason, eradication efforts are being done on a whole-herd basis for known infected farms.

The MPI announced in June that about 126,000 cattle will need to be culled, on top of the 26,000 animals that have already been destroyed, in a 10-year phased eradication effort predicted to cost NZ$886 million.

Despite the fact that M. bovis was confirmed for the first time in the Tasman district earlier this week, response incident controller Catherine Duthie said that there is some progress being made.

“Nationally, the number of active infected properties has dropped to 35, while 28 farms have been cleaned and depopulated and those farmers are moving forward with their farming business,” she said.

Dr John Roche, MPI’s Departmental Science Adviser and Chair of the advisory group, said they recognise it is an unsettling time for farmers and are working quickly to address the issue.

“They held their second meeting this week to start the development of their detailed work plan to shape the long-term science strategy,” he said. “The group has already identified some key priorities for immediate work and will hold a workshop in September to get wider input into developing the broader science plan.”

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