Scottish scientists have developed a new diagnostic blood test for sheep scab.
The test, which was developed by the Moredun Research Institute, is now being used by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).
It detects host antibodies to a specific protein only present in the sheep scab mite Psoroptes ovis.
Researchers hope the test, when used in conjunction with examinations of skin scrapings from affected sheep, will give a more reliable diagnosis of sheep scab.
The disease, which is notifiable in Scotland, often goes undetected as it shows no obvious signs during the early stages of infestation meaning affected animals can act as a source of infection for other sheep.
To take advantage of the test, which will initially be offered free of charge, vets are invited to send clotted blood samples and skin scrapings to APHA’s centre in Shrewbsury.
Dr Stewart Burgess who leads the sheep scab research group at Moredun said: “The development of a sensitive and specific blood test provides an important tool to aid control strategies for sheep scab and crucially, by using this new test it is now possible to detect the infection much earlier, at the sub-clinical stage. We are very pleased to collaborate with APHA to make the test available to support farmers and vets in the control of the disease.”