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HomeFarming NewsGeronimo the alpaca: ‘A number of TB-like lesions’ found
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 the alpaca: ‘A number of TB-like lesions’ found

DEFRA has revealed that “a number of TB-like lesions” were found in Geronimo the alpaca, during an initial post-mortem examination.

The alpaca tested positive for bovine tuberculosis (TB) using what it describes as “highly accurate tests”.

Helen MacDonald believes the results were false positives, and as a result, she took the case to the High Court.

She claimed that the “government refused to engage in good faith”. “All the time, they were simply planning to murder Geronimo,” she said in a statement.

The judge re-issued a warrant for the slaughter of Geronimo (8) to commence on August 5th, 2021.

DEFRA vets removed the well-known animal from her farm in the UK on Tuesday, August 31st, 2021 and later euthanised him.

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In a statement on September 8th, 2021, a spokesperson said:

“Experienced veterinary pathologists from the Government’s Animal and Plant Health Agency completed the initial post-mortem examination and found a number of TB-like lesions. It is, therefore not true to say no signs of TB were found.”

A lesion is an area of tissue that has been damaged through disease.

In some cases, the microscopic lesions of TB in the affected organs can take a very long time to progress to larger, visible lesions, if at all. According to the statement, it is, therefore, significant to find these signs.

Further investigation 

Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Christine Middlemiss said:

“We have completed the initial post-mortem examination of Geronimo”.

“A number of TB-like lesions were found and in line with standard practice, these are now undergoing further investigation.”

She said the tests include the development of bacteriological cultures from tissue samples which usually takes several months.

“We would expect to complete the full post-mortem and culture process by the end of the year.”

She explained that Mycobacterium bovis can be cultured in the laboratory from clinical samples, usually from tissue samples collected post-mortem.

“The culture process takes some time as the bTB bacterium grows slowly.”

She said it requires special expertise and safety facilities, which means that parties can only culture in specialist laboratories. “However, it is not always successful even in lab conditions.”

“It is only after growth in the laboratory that the species of Mycobacterium isolated can be identified.”

Concluding, Dr Middlemiss stressed that bTB is a dangerous zoonotic disease.

“Our control strategy seeks to eliminate the disease in suspected animals to protect public health,” she concluded.


MacDonald has “strongly” refuted DEFRA’s claims. In a statement, she said: “The truth is that the findings do not, at this stage, indicate any signs of Bovine TB.”

“Further, DEFRA’s claim that culture is not always successful is clearly pre-empting a conclusive negative culture result.”

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