New tools for detecting livestock viruses

by 5m Editor
26 April 2005, at 12:00am

AUSTRALIA - Australian scientists are developing new methods for detecting insect-borne livestock diseases soon after they enter northern Australia.

New tools for detecting livestock viruses - AUSTRALIA - Australian scientists are developing new methods for detecting insect-borne livestock diseases soon after they enter northern Australia.

CSIRO Livestock Industries' Dr David Boyle says the three-year project, funded by the Australian Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre, will provide training in the use of rapid detection techniques such as microarrays to identify and characterise viruses isolated as part of the National Arbovirus Monitoring Program (NAMP).

"NAMP is jointly funded by industry and government to monitor the distribution of economically important insect-borne viruses of livestock - arboviruses - and their vectors," Dr Boyle says.

"A key element of the program is the maintenance of a national network of sentinel cattle herds from which regular blood samples are taken and tested for important viruses."

He says the Northern Territory Department of Business, Industry and Resource Development, Berrimah Veterinary Laboratory located in Darwin is the key laboratory for monitoring arbovirus activity in northern Australia.

Dr Lorna Melville, Principal Veterinary Virologist with the Berrimah Veterinary Laboratory says: "Every year, our lab can identify several hundred viruses through classical virological techniques such as cell culture, electron microscopy and serotyping. Isolates characterised as bluetongue virus are forwarded to CSIRO Livestock Industries' Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) in Geelong, Victoria, for molecular characterisation.

"The current techniques of virus characterisation are lengthy, costly and time-consuming. Also, a significant number of isolated viruses remain uncharacterised, posing an indeterminate threat to Australia's livestock industries," she says.

Berrimah Veterinary Laboratory will work with AAHL and the Jerome L. and Dawn Greene Infectious Disease Laboratory, Columbia University, New York, to develop and evaluate microarrays and other rapid diagnostic tools for virus characterisation.

Researchers hope that by using these new tools, complete virus characterisation can be completed in a matter of days rather than the weeks or months that are currently required.

Dr Boyle says researchers at AAHL have pioneered a technique called PCR-Select suppressive subtractive hybridization, which provides for the rapid characterisation of unknown viruses.

"As part of this project, we will be able to characterise around 20 unknown viruses known to be circulating in the Northern Territory. This will allow us to better assess the threat these uncharacterised viruses could pose to Australia's livestock industries in terms of trading livestock and livestock products," he says.

Source: CSIRO Australia - 21st April 2005
© Copyright CSIRO Australia

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