Developing the Paralisa™ Test

Established by Prof. Frank Griffin in 1985

Established by Prof. Frank Griffin in 1985 within the Dept. of Microbiology & Immunology at the University of Otago in Dunedin, DRL (originally Deer Research Laboratory, subsequently Disease Research Laboratory and more recently reborn as Disease Research Limited) have worked closely with New Zealand vets and farmers for the past 35 years to develop and make available custom diagnostic services to better meet their needs. In conjunction with the provision of testing services, DRL have always been actively engaged in research activities relative to animal health in NZ and in the translation of their laboratory findings into practical and usable frontline diagnostic tools.

DRL’s stock in trade for the past 10 years has been an inhouse, serum ELISA-based test (Paralisa™) tailored for diagnosis of Johne’s disease (JD) in farmed deer which was developed in response to poor performance of commercial test kits designed for cattle in this species. Prior to this, DRL was heavily invested in the development and application of a custom Tb diagnostic test to the deer industry which provided greater sensitivity and specificity than the skin test and through which the incidence of Tb in NZ deer herds has been reduced over a period of 25 years from 430 infected herds in 1989 to presently just 2 Tb infected herds today.

In December 2015 in a letter of appreciation and endorsement of DRL’s services, Mr Kris Orange, Chairman of the New Zealand Deer Farmers Association, acknowledged that ‘feedback from the Deer Branch chairs was both enthusiastic and optimistic and allows we as NZDFA to reinforce our support for DRL, its skills and innovation and for a further future role in animal health diagnostics and adding value to the genetic resources and top deer farming performance that we now enjoy. DRL has been a pivotal part of that evolution’.

Recognition of Excellence and Innovation

When Prof. Griffin was awarded the Pickering Medal by the Royal Society of New Zealand in 2010 in recognition of excellence and innovation in the practical application of technology, DRL’s efforts were credited with having saved the deer industry $90m of production that would otherwise have been lost to these diseases (Tuberculosis, Yersiniosis and Johne’s disease).

Customised Faecal PCR (fPCR) Test

Routine service provision of the Paralisa™ test for the past decade has equipped DRL with expertise in high-throughput testing and allowed investment in high-level laboratory automation and systemised reporting. In addition, DRL has uniquely developed and validated a customised faecal PCR (fPCR) test for direct quantitation of MAP shedding in dung samples, with results stratified into shedding categories for reporting.

DRL are the only laboratory in NZ which has such a validated fPCR test on offer as a routine service. The advantage of fPCR is that it measures the quantity of MAP bacteria within a faecal sample which in turn is a reliable measure of disease severity. This strategy allows less affected individuals to be flagged for appropriate risk management and targeted monitoring. The stratification of affected animals also allows investment in JD management programmes to be appropriately tailored according to available resources as well as to the scale of the problem and the goals of a JD management plan.

Independent Ownership

In 2020, DRL was purchased by the employees, allowing the business to stand strong on its own.  The renowned customer service and quick turnaround of livestock diagnostics, backed by Simon’s 22 years in the lab, continue to be the cornerstone of our service.