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HomeFarming NewsGeronimo: Defra publishes culture test results
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Geronimo: Defra publishes culture test results

The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) has completed its culture testing work for Geronimo, the alpaca.

Defra said the animal tested positive for bovine tuberculosis (bTB) twice using “highly specific tests”.

As That’s Farming reported in September, APHA specialist vets completed an initial post-mortem examination of the animal.

They claimed that they discovered the presence of “TB-like lesions”.

These have since been undergoing further testing to determine the infection source.


APHA issued a statement earlier this morning (Friday, December 10th, 2021).

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It confirmed that “it was not possible to culture bacteria from tissue samples taken at post-mortem examination”.

Therefore, they said it will “not be possible to carry out whole genome sequencing to try to understand how the alpaca caught the disease”.

“This does not mean the animal was free of bTB infection because it had previously twice tested positive using highly specific, validated and reliable tests.”

The statement added that the additional bacteria culturing process APHA carried is not used to validate previous test results.

Instead, the purpose is to “identify which strain of the disease is present and help inform decisions on testing other animals in the herd”.

APHA Weybridge – the “leading centre” globally for the study of TB in animals – carried out testing.


Chief Veterinary Officer, Christine Middlemiss, said:

“This animal tested positive for bovine tuberculosis on two separate occasions using highly specific tests.”

“Due to the complexity of the disease, further testing has not enabled us to use whole-genome sequencing to try to understand how the animal became infected in the first place.”

“Our sympathies remain with all those with animals affected by this terrible disease which devastates farmers’ livelihoods.”

She said it is important to remember that infected animals can spread the disease to both animals and people before displaying clinical signs.

“This is we take action quickly to limit the risk of the disease spreading. We are grateful for the cooperation of livestock farmers to allow this to happen,” she added.

Helen MacDonald, a registered vet nurse, imported the alpaca from New Zealand. She believed the results were false positives and took the case to the High Court.

However, the judge re-issued a warrant for the slaughter of Geronimo to commence on August 5th, 2021.

Previously, Middlemiss argued that the “chances of a false positive are significantly less than one per cent, and we have tested him twice”.

Defra vets euthanised Geronimo, the alpaca, on Tuesday, August 31st, 2021.

At the time of writing, McDonald has yet to release a statement following the most recent development.

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