miRNA Testing will Transform Livestock Surveillance

The Convergent A+H approach to miRNA testing will transform how we monitor and treat livestock. The current surveillance approach for animal health is to test for pathogens after animals show signs of sickness or die. Egg production in 2022 is an example of how this system is a failure. In the U.S., 50 million chickens died or were killed due to bird flu and the price of eggs increased 240 percent. The future of animal health is miRNA testing to detect an animal’s exposure to pathogens before they show symptoms. This requires that testing equipment be on-site or mobile. The goal is to detect animals in the latent phase of the infection so remediation procedures can be taken before the animals become communicable. This is an extremely large market that is not going to disappear.

PI 3 in Cattle

Cattle suffer from a range of bovine respiratory disease (BRDs), including pneumonia, shipping fever, infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR) virus and parainfluenza 3 (PI3). According to BEEF magazine, one in five cattle catch PI3. By some estimates, PI3 costs the cattle industry over $1 billion annually. It leads to lower growth weight, causes heifers to have smaller, fewer calves and lower milk yield. Because of the danger of an infection spreading in the close confines of feedlots and dairy operations, operators respond with aggressive treatment. If an animal in a pen begins showing signs of infection, they often give antibiotics to all of the cattle in the pen, and also try to quarantine the symptomatic animals. However animals are usually contagious by the time they start showing symptoms, and the overuse of anti-biotics is decreasing their effectiveness and might eventually cause the government to curtail their agricultural use to maintain their effectiveness.

Cattle Disease miRNA Test

miRNA offers a new diagnostic approach to Para Influenza 3 (PI3) and other pathogens. Some cattle diseases can be done on-site (similar to home pregnancy tests), however they are prone to user error. Lab tests are expensive and not timely. miRNA testing supports the development of self-contained, on-site testing equipment that would generate lab-quality results at the feedlot or dairy. Convergent A+H, in collaboration with Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, is developing a PI3 micro-RNA test for cattle. Convergent will leverage the advantages of miRNA diagnostics and a key patent for microfluidic chips to introduce testing equipment that can be placed at feedlots, dairy farms and other livestock operations, transforming cattle health.