We have been working with Dr Al Edwards, Dr Partha Ray and Dr Sarah Needs and their team at the University of Reading’s Schools of Pharmacy and Agriculture to understand and develop a rugged, self-contained prototype testing kit designed for vets to conduct vital microbiology tests for Indian dairy farmers without needing a lab.
The project builds on a successful Innovate UK bid with the University of Reading, Capillary Film Technology, Design Science and the National Institute of Animal Biotechnology in India.
Find out more at milk-guard.com
We developed a joint bid with the team of veterinary scientists and microbiologists to address the issues of antibiotic resistance in resource poor settings where regulation and availability of testing to support effective antibiotic treatments is weak and costs of lab-based testing are prohibitive.
Due to the covid-19 pandemic, we reimagined our field research and made use of mobile and digital technologies to communicate with rural vets in Bengal using amongst other technologies, WhatsApp and MS Teams. The remote workshops, run by Dr Partha Ray, included sharing the proposed Milk Guard service with vets using mobile screen shots and descriptions over WhatsApp groups and used the group feature to capture their feedback as well as understand more about farmers and vets knowledge around illness, treatment and AMR.
As one of the vets explained, “If this kit works properly it will bring a revolution in dairy industry globally”
As part of the Innovate UK monitoring process, we explained our Design Research activities including the successful remote discovery workshops, service mapping, test kit development and the creation of the Milk Guard brand. We also explained the engineering and microbiology developments that the team undertook in parallel with design research.
Following feedback from vets and microbiologists we helped the team to prepare prototype testing kits for shipping to India for initial trials in October.
The prototype kits contain everything needed to test for bacteria that cause mastitis in dairy cattle and can identify resistance to all 5 commonly prescribed antibiotics, including:
We produced a website for sharing project information, news updates and to serve as a resource where instructions can be downloaded.
Milk Guard has been developed collaboratively by a team of researchers and designers who have been working with vets and specialists in West Bengal to understand their underlying needs and the challenges of controlling mastitis infections in cattle farms through a creative and people-centred research process.
Mastitis is a significant problem in India’s dairy herds, affecting milk production and quality, farm economics and animal welfare (Smith, et al., 2001). In India, the disease is estimated to account for nearly 70% of the losses incurred during milk production, costing the country over Rs. 7165 crores (circa £765,000,000) annually (Bansal and Gupta, 2009). It also threatens food safety and the farming communities’ own health and wellbeing.
The only way to cure mastitis is to treat cattle with the right antibiotics within a few hours after diagnosis, but antimicrobial resistance is a growing problem across our farms:
Our long-term goal is to tackle the challenge of rising AMR levels that leads to reduced milk production through hard-to-treat mastitis in dairy cattle (cutting family income), and untreatable human infections.
The team are now applying for phase 2 funding with the aim to further miniaturise, simplify and ruggedise the service and to begin to develop the market for its commercial adoption through sustainable development goals.