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WESTMINSTER, Colo.—Biotechnology company GeneThera Inc. will be in a better position to help combat Crohn's disease in humans—albeit indirectly—with its recent acquisition of a majority ownership stake in Applied Genetics SA, a molecular diagnostic company based in Monterrey, Mexico. Applied Genetics is a molecular diagnostic company that focuses on commercializing molecular testing for Johne's disease in Mexico.
Johne's disease is a an incurable disease of dairy cows, sheep and goats that occurs globally and is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP), and Applied Genetics employs the use of GeneThera HerdCheck to test and control the spread of Johne's disease in Mexico. HerdCheck is a proprietary molecular diagnostic system based on the use of high-throughput robotics and real-time PCR.
Where the diagnostics story here becomes more pertinent to humans is when one takes into account that GeneThera is dedicated to improving food safety by applying the latest molecular technologies to eradicate zoonotic diseases such as Johne's disease, mad cow disease, chronic wasting disease and E.coli, all of which can cross over to humans. According to GeneThera, "An overwhelming number of studies have shown that MAP is the causative agent of Crohn's disease in humans." Dairy products contaminated with MAP, the company says, are the vehicles by which the infection spreads in the human intestine.
"This business is in animal diagnostics, but the human side has great importance to us and enormous global impact because animal health affects communities," Dr. Tony Milici, CEO of GeneThera and interim president of Applied Genetics, tells ddn. "Reports have shown that people with genetic predispositions or weak immune systems are particular prone to infection by MAP. The goal here is to prevent cow infections and thus prevent the milk being infected and thus the food chain."
GeneThera has been involved with Applied Genetics for "some time" in a business relationship, Milici notes, "but we realized that we needed to have a better handle on the operations in Mexico and we felt it would be better to have a more full picture of the company instead of a minority ownership position."
"[We] will continue our efforts to make GeneThera a leader in molecular diagnostic testing both in Mexico and South America," he noted in the news release about the deal.
In its effort to manage and prevent zoonotic diseases, GeneThera focuses on developing molecular diagnostic tests, therapeutics and vaccines in the belief that better technologies and methodology need to be implemented to help control emerging diseases in animals and in humans, with that focus currently on the diagnosis and treatment of Johne's disease. According to the Johne's Information Center, an estimated 7.8 percent of the beef herds and 30 percent to 70 percent of the dairy herds in the United States are infected with MAP. The MAP organism grows very slowly, causes a gradually worsening disease condition and is highly resistant to the infected animal's immune defenses. Therefore, infected animals can harbor the organism for years before they test positive or develop disease signs, according to GeneThera.