Researchers at the Idaho National Laboratory are at a breakthrough point in developing a new test for the disease brucellosis.
This disease affects wild herd animals like bison, elk and deer and can be transmitted to domestic herds. INL said they are formulating a new testing method that pinpoints the presence of the disease without taking the life of animals.
This program will help stabilize herds that migrate from national forests to winter ranges that include contact with domestic animals.
“It is dangerous because it causes abortions in females, and to test for it, the animals usually have to be slaughtered, which affects the populations,” INL Researcher Frank Roberto told KIFI Channel 8 in Idaho Falls.
Roberto and a team of scientists have been working on developing a better testing system since the mid-1990s.
“We started this in 1996, with the hope that we could pinpoint the presence of the disease without detecting antibodies,” Roberto said.
At the INL Research Center in Idaho Falls, researchers test hundreds of animal samples each day taken from Yellowstone National Park.
INL is the only major lab in the country doing such tests for the presence of DNA infected with brucellosis. The program is co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Homeland Security.
“This is definitely a laboratory procedure for now, but seeing as brucellosis still affects hundreds to thousands of people each year around the world, hopefully we could continue to develop it to where it can be used on that level,” Roberto said.