DUBAI //Scientists are developing a new and simpler pregnancy test for camels in an effort to improve birth rates.
With pregnancies that last 13 months, early detection is key to maximising the number of births.
To develop the test, Dr Omer Ahmed, from the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, has taken 500 samples of blood and dung from 11 camels - four pregnant, three not pregnant, and four ovulating - from Dubai's Camel Reproduction Centre.
The team monitored hormone concentrations through the camels' menstrual cycle and during pregnancy.
"We started by mating the camels and monitored them for three months," said Dr Lulu Skidmore, the centre's director. "We started sampling [them] a year ago - the ovulating ones on a daily basis and the other ones weekly, for three weeks."
This gave them extremely precise timing on the camels' pregnancies. "We know when the camel was mated, we know when the pregnancy was a week, two, three and four weeks old and we were able to monitor the pregnancy by scanning."
Now back in Vienna, Dr Ahmed will compare the progesterone levels in the various samples using to an enzyme immunoassay, a test which uses antibodies to determine a specific entity. That will give him a precise chart of how the hormone levels change according to the state of fertility and pregnancy.
In blood, three nanograms (billionths of a gram) of progesterone means a camel is three weeks pregnant. From ovulation until the end of the pregnancy, the levels of progesterone can range between one and five nanograms.
The result should be a test that can divine, from dung, whether a camel is pregnant at the earliest stages. "It's better to know early because they've got a short breeding season," said Dr Skidmore.