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Diagnostics & Surveillance

The Pirbright Institute provides expertise and capacity for laboratory investigations to monitor livestock for high consequence viral diseases and underpins global disease control efforts. Specifically, the Institute provides Reference Laboratories in respect of 10 exotic viral diseases of livestock. These Reference Laboratories work on behalf of national (Defra) and international organisations.

Reference Laboratories have skilled and expert personnel, validated diagnostic tests, essential reagents and archive materials (viruses, antisera), and in our case, facilities for experiments in animals, to respond to outbreaks in a timely manner. The principal services provided vary according to the client.

The services we can offer are listed in the categories below.


Our Reference Laboratories provide the following services to Defra:

  • Tests to detect the pathogens or antibodies against them. This service is provided on a 24/7 basis
  • Modification and validation of tests to deal with new, variant forms of the pathogens
  • Laboratory characterisation of pathogens in order to determine their origin, make predictions about their likely mode of transmission and the success of different control strategies, such as vaccination
  • Supply of specialist reagents and materials to other laboratories in case multiple diagnostic centres are needed to deal with a major epidemic
  • Animal experiments with the pathogens in order to evaluate biological properties such as host specificity, routes of transmission and efficacy of vaccines
  • Advice

The services provided to international organisations (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, the European Union, and the World Organisation for Animal Health, OIE) include:

  • Receiving samples from overseas for diagnosis and characterisation (strain-typing, vaccine-matching)
  • Organisation of inter-laboratory comparative testing exercises
  • Development and supply of reference materials and kits
  • Animal experiments with the pathogens in order to evaluate biological properties such as host specificity, routes of transmission, and efficacy of vaccines
  • Training scientists from other countries
  • Advice

Reference Laboratory funding comes from Defra, FAO and the EU.

We offer diagnostic services for:

  • African horse sickness
  • African swine fever
  • Bluetongue
  • Capripox viruses (goat pox, sheep pox and lumpy skin disease)
  • Epizootic haemorrhagic disease virus
  • Peste des petits ruminants
  • Diagnostic Price List

Submission forms:

Amendments to final reports caused through illegible writing or errors made by the submitter will be subject to an administration charge.
Testing within the Non-Vesicular Reference Laboratory is subject to a 5 working day turnaround starting the day after receipt of sample.


We offer diagnostic services for:

  • Foot-and-mouth disease
  • Swine vesicular disease
  • Vesicular stomatitis
  • Vesicular exanthema of swine
  • Diagnostic Price List

Submission forms:

For virology testing please contact and to discuss your testing requirements.

Shipment of Infectious Material

The following film provides advice on the safe and secure packaging and shipment of infectious material to The Pirbright Institute ©.

Please ensure all samples are adequately packaged to prevent breakage, address the package to the department/personnel for which you are requesting services. For samples to be sent to the reference laboratory please see the Diagnostic Price List for details on where to send the samples. For everything else please us the address below:

Attention: [Contact person] [Non-Vesicular Disease Reference Laboratory/Vesicular Disease Reference Laboratory*]  * - delete as appropriate

The Pirbright Institute
Ash Road

GU24 0NF

Please ensure sender information is given on the back of the package. Failure to do so may result in delayed results.

Further information and details on the courses we currently offer can be found on our training pages.

Research Groups

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