Background This paper explores the current role and place of diagnostic tests in the treatment of farm animal disease. With the growing focus on reduced reliance on antibiotic medicines in both animal and human patient care, attention is increasingly being focused on the practice, the technology and the function of diagnostic tests and how these can support responsible antimicrobial use. Emerging diagnostic technologies offer the possibility of more rapid testing for bacterial disease, while food chain actors and others are increasingly seeking to make diagnostic tests mandatory before the use of critically important antibiotics.
Method This paper reports the findings of a recent large-scale online survey of UK farm animal veterinarians (n=153) which investigated current veterinary diagnostic practice with particular attention to the relationship between diagnostic test use and antibiotic treatment.
Results Results revealed a range of factors that influence veterinary diagnostic practice and demonstrate the continuing importance of clinical observation and animal/herd knowledge in the selection of antibiotic treatment.
Conclusion The findings identify a considerable ambivalence on the part of farm animal veterinarians regarding the current and future uses of rapid and point-of-care diagnostic tests as a means of improving clinical diagnosis and addressing inappropriate antibiotic medicine use.
- antimicrobial resistance
- diagnostic practices
- rapid diagnostic tests
- point-of-care tests
- online survey
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Funding This paper draws directly on research undertaken as part of the project: Diagnostic Innovation and Livestock (DIAL): Toward the effective and sustainable application of antibiotics in livestock farming (Project ID: ES/P008194/), funded by the Antimicrobial Resistance Cross Council Initiative supported by the seven UK Research Councils in partnership with other funders. The support of the Economic and Social Research Council is gratefully acknowledged. The authors also wish to thank the British Veterinary Association (BVA) for facilitating the survey and members of the Bristol Veterinary School’s Farm Animal Group as well as other veterinarians for contributing to the design of the survey and review of this manuscript.
Competing interests None declared.
Ethics approval Before data collection, ethical approval was granted by the University of Exeter Geography Ethics Committee (approval reference number eCLESGeo000069v.3.0).
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data availability statement Data are available on reasonable request.
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