Vet News – Farm News

Vet NewsEls has taken a really interesting look this month at the news surrounding a new PCR test available to aid large animal vets in their important work.


New PCR Test available for bovine mycoplasma

 Farm Editor, Els de VrijerEls de Vrijer (Vet News Farm Animal Editor)

Bovine mycoplasma is a bacterial infection that is responsible for several diseases in the cow. Although it mainly causes respiratory disease, it can also be responsible for abortions, mastitis and arthritis. Clearly, this leads to huge economical losses within the dairy industry: €500 million per year in the European dairy industry alone. The disease is a tricky one to conquer. It is hard to diagnose due to its inconsistent gene expression and varying response to treatment. M. bovis is also very similar to another bacterium, m. agalactiae, varying by only 8 nucleotides in its genetic makeup.  It is also incredibly slow and difficult to culture, and treatment with antibiotics is not cost-effective. Therefore, the main means of controlling the disease lies with prevention. Recently, a new PCR test for m. bovis has become available, making the future for the control of the disease much brighter.

PCR testing is a method of copying fragments of DNA, which can then be used to locate the presence of a pathogen in an organism. Firstly, the DNA strand is separated using a thermocycler at a high temperature. The mixture is then cooled and sequences of nucleotides that have complementary bases to each end of the DNA fragment that needs to be copied, called ‘primers’ are attached. These provide a starting sequence for the copying of DNA. Then, the temperature is increased to around 72°C to provide the optimum temperature for DNA polymerase to work at. This adds other nucleotides to the DNA sequence, thereby copying the DNA. In a short amount of time, several copies of the DNA can be made. These can then be compared to the DNA of the bacterium to see whether it is present. It is a rapid and efficient method of pin pointing the disease – this particular test takes only 2.5 hours before the results are ready. “The improved sensitivity of this new test means that veterinarians will be able to monitor dairy herds for sub-clinical infection using samples from the bulk tank,” said Eric Sellal, Head of Animal Health EMEA at Life Technologies.The scientists have improved upon the previous test by locating a new target gene on the mycoplasma bovis genome, which is clearer to locate.

Hopefully, this new test will provide veterinarians with a tool for quickly locating this pathogen and preventing its rapid spread throughout the herd.




AQA Biology A2 textbook – Glen Toole and Susan Toole (Nelson Thornes)

The NEW vet school in Surrey

Tonight seemed to bring the new vet school at the University of Surrey, Guildford very much to the forefront of everyone’s attention. One thing that it highlighted, however, was how little many actually know about the new school and it’s plans to start accepting applicants this year.

I recently spoke with a representative from the new school, following my visit to the main University of Surrey campus, and put some questions to them:

1. What is the anticipated annual intake for the new school? 

In year one (2014) we will have a small intake of 25 students, rising to 100 students per year in subsequent years.


2. Is the vet school to offer just one veterinary degree programme, and what will this be (eg BVSc), or are there plans to offer additional options, such an integrated intercalation?

Surrey already runs a BSc programme in veterinary biosciences and a MSc in veterinary microbiology. In the new School we will initially offer a veterinary medicine programme but in future years we wish to offer integrated intercalation. We will also use our clinical expertise in the school to offer a range of CPD programmes for veterinary graduates, veterinary nurses and technicians.


3. What will the minimum entry requirements be? (Grades, work-experience requirements) 

Our entry requirements are AAB (with A grades required in chemistry and biology).  Applicants are expected to have gained at least four weeks animal-related work experience, which could include general veterinary practice, farm, stable yard, kennels, rescue centre, research laboratory, or abattoir work.


4. Will there be any provisions made for widening participation, eg lower entrance requirements for eligible students?

The University runs an In2Surrey scheme which is targeted at able students with widening participation profiles, applied on a national basis and aims to support students through on-campus advice, guidance workshops on applying to university and writing personal statements.  The potential of qualifying students is recognised by making an offer one grade below the standard offer for the course the student applies for; this scheme will also be open to any future candidates entering the scheme that wishes to undertake the Veterinary Medicine programme. The University has a strong record in providing targeted bursaries and is investing more to support students from low-income backgrounds to ensure that tuition fees do not deter talented young people from considering university.  The University offers a package of bursaries and fee waivers to students to ensure they are not disadvantaged by their financial circumstances.


5. What teaching style is likely to be applied? Problem-based learning, or more traditional lecture based teaching?

This will be a new curriculum based on the current best teaching practices. There will therefore be a mixture of teaching styles including some traditional lectures and problem (or case) based learning, as well as an emphasis on building both clinical and research skills through hands-on practical teaching.


6. How will clinical teaching be delivered? Will it be via the Nottingham system whereby this is provided by commercial practices or are there plans to establish clinical facilities at the university itself? 

We will be adopting a Nottingham style delivery mode for clinical skills training; students will have the opportunity to build their skills from the start of the course in practical teaching sessions, our new clinical skills centre and through working with clinical staff at a number of associated partner practices and veterinary hospitals.


7. Where will students be taught? Will the full course be taught at one site, like Nottingham, or will there be two sites, like Bristol ? 

The students will be taught in a brand new School of Veterinary Medicine on campus offering state of the art facilities that will include a clinical skills centre, a surgery training suite and a learning environment that is built around the needs of the student of today and focused on using technology to enhance learning.


Applications for the new course can be submitted via UCAS (as with any of the other veterinary degree courses) from this September (2013) for the initial intake of just 25 students in 2014.