M. bovis is the bacterium responsible for bovine tuberculosis.
The launch took place at the DairyTech event in the UK on February 7.
Since the milk they use is not pasteurized, raw milk cheese producers have to be constantly vigilant against outbreaks of bovine TB in their dairy herds.
Nottingham University scientists Dr Cath Rees and Dr Ben Swift co-founded PBD Biotech to develop and commercialize the Actiphage test from a technology originally used to detect TB in humans.
Susceptible to outbreak
After they gave a presentation to the Specialist Cheesemakers Association, an alliance of cheesemakers, retailers, wholesalers and others involved with artisan cheese, Richard Calver, of Westcombe Dairy, asked if the test could prove live TB bacteria were not present in unpasteurized milk.
Calver said, “If you're making cheese from raw milk, you're very susceptible to a TB outbreak, and years ago when we started to produce cheese the traditional way, we felt it was the biggest threat to our business.
“We had the annual skin test funded by the ministry, so we used to pay for additional six-month testing of the cattle to ensure that we only had six months' cheese at risk.”
UK cattle are routinely tested for tuberculosis and infected cattle should be identified at an early stage before the disease has a chance to reach the udders, so while there is only a very slight chance of contamination, as a precaution, all milk produced by a herd with cases of TB cannot be used for raw milk products.
Following successful trials, PBD Biotech is now launching a commercial milk service for both Bovine TB and Johne’s disease, which will roll out to commercial laboratories in the UK and overseas.
Rees said she recommends milk samples are taken just ahead of the herd TB testing to give the producer assurance that milk they have used to make their maturing cheese is not contaminated.