The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) has been unable to determine the source of the bovine tuberculosis (bTB) infection for which Geronimo, a now well-known alpaca in the UK, was euthanised for, the agency has said today (Friday, December 10).

The APHA has said it was not possible to culture bacteria from tissue samples taken at post-mortem examination, making it impossible to carry out Whole Genome Sequencing in order to try to understand how the alpaca caught the disease.

This bacteria culturing process is not used to validate previous test results - i.e. Geronimo's initial post-mortem examination where 'TB-like' lesions were found - but instead to identify which strain of the disease in present and help inform decisions on testing other animals in the herd.

This does not mean the animal was free of bTB infection the AHPA notes, as it had previously tested positive twice.

“This animal tested positive for bovine tuberculosis on two separate occasions using highly specific tests,” said chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss.

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. It is important to remember that infected animals can spread the disease to both animals and people before displaying clinical signs, which is why 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 concluded.