Thursday, 13 May 2010
Know your enemy
Robin Skuce and his colleagues at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute in Northern Ireland matched today's sunshine with some optimism. They are looking at the genetics of cows and of the TB pathogen. For me this shed new light on a problem that so often seems beyond addressing, never mind solving. Of course, when one thinks about it, most pathogens do come up against individuals who have immunity. Human beings are not all equally susceptible to TB (and I was stunned to learn that 40% of the world's population is infected, although in most it is latent). Why shouldn't it be possible to select cattle for resistance to this bacterium? Robin thinks that this is quite feasible and with the necessary will and resources, could come about relatively quickly. His research also involves looking at the genetics of TB itself and he showed how its family tree has now been recorded in detail. Know you enemy, he urges. And tracking particular strains of bTB could show how the infection is being passed on. So maybe we have some new tools to use.