It is widely recognised that a global approach is required to combat the rapid and widespread occurrence of virus diseases in livestock. Playing a pivitol role in the fight against these economically important diseases are The Pirbright Institute’s Reference Laboratories which provide an essential diagnostic and advice service not only to the UK Government but also to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the European Union (EU) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
Pirbright is home to ten OIE Reference Laboratories and as a centre of excellence in diagnostics and surveillence the Institute was recently invited by the World Organisation for Animal Health to take part in their Twinning Project scheme, to build expertise for the most important animal dieases in priority regions. The idea being that by allowing more countries the opportunity to access high quality diagnostic testing and technical knowledge within their own countries the better equipped they are at early disease detection and control.
Each twinning project links an existing OIE Reference Laboratory or Collaborating Centre with a selected candidate laboratory to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and skills over a determined project period. They deliver mutual benefits to both laboratories by creating collaborative research opportunities and developing stronger global disease surveillance networks.
The Pirbright Institute has recently been involved in two OIE-funded laboratory twinning projects, one in Uganda and the other in Morocco.
In Uganda the Institute was twinned with the National Animal Disease Diagnostics and Epidemiology Centre (NADDEC) in Entebbe with the aim of establishing the first OIE Reference Laboratory in the East African region.
Peste des petits ruminants, lumpy skin disease, sheep and goat pox, foot-and-mouth disease and bluetongue are all OIE listed diseases present in Uganda, making it difficult for the country to access lucrative export markets. Diagnostic capability and technical expertise are essential for early detection and surveillance of these diseases and vital for their control.
Over the course of the three-year project the Institute provided training both at Pirbright and in Entebbe. Ugandan staff were trained in molecular diagnostics, serology and cell culture and with the aim of improving laboratory standards, biosecurity and test quality, systems were set up for sample management and quality assurance.
In addition to training NADDEC’s technical staff, the Pirbright team imported key reagents and diagnostic kits so that real time PCRs can be carried out for the target diseases.
Head of Non Vesicular Reference Laboratories, Dr Carrie Batten, says, “I’m delighted to report that the centre is now in a much better position to undertake diagnostic tests which are carried out by well trained staff in a laboratory that is generally well equipped. A fair amount of progress has been made through the training of staff, setting up of standard operating procedures, a sample management system and, with the help of other projects, the security of the site has also been improved.
“The links between Pirbright and NADDEC are likely to continue through the provision of proficiency tests for bluetongue virus and foot-and-mouth disease virus and we hope that with continued support and funding from the Ugandan government NADDEC will achieve OIE reference laboratory status.”