NZ biotech company develops Johne’s Disease assay


New Zealand biotech company Pictor Limited has been developing an accurate, affordable multiplexed diagnostic test for Johne’s Disease.

Also known as Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP) – Johne’s disease costs the New Zealand dairy industry upwards of NZ$80 million (US$50 million) a year in lost production.

A global issue, Johne’s disease is a contagious, chronic, and usually fatal infection that generally affects the small intestine of ruminants. 

In cattle, signs of the condition include weight loss and diarrhea in spite of a normal appetite. The disease also has a long incubation period.

“The PictArray MAP assay would be a positive addition to national control programs to help in the eradication of Johne’s disease from the dairy industry,” said Pictor’s director of research and development, Natasha Gordon.

The PictArray multiplex enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) technology allows multiple biomarkers to be tested in a single well. This allows for improved disease management on the farm.

Conventional ELISA takes a snapshot of a disease at one moment in time, while the PictArray multiplex allows complex diseases to be monitored through different stages of infection using biomarkers that present at different time points during the infection cycle, including asymptomatic stages. 

Earlier detection of Johne’s disease would allow infected animals to be removed from herds sooner, minimizing transmission.

University involvement

“Our PictArray MAP assay could facilitate improved biosecurity, and support trade, because tests can be performed quickly and accurately when importing, exporting or moving livestock and associated products between local locations, resulting in safe transportation in without the risk of spreading infection,” Gordon said.

The research project is led by Pictor in a collaboration with Rao Dukkipati at Massey University, and builds on long-term research at Massey University by Alan Murray. 

Pictor received a NZ$404,040 (US$252,371) grant from the New Zealand Government’s Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund to develop the test, and Pictor has filed a PCT application for this multiplexed assay.

Cover image: Labiotech

Explore other topics: foodtechNew Zealand

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