The Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory is a state lab that works to protect animal health at home, throughout the United States, and across the globe. It is trusted by clients for its core diagnostics, innovative solutions, and expert service.
While submissions dropped approximately 45 percent in April due to restrictions on veterinary services in Michigan and around the country, submissions returned to normal in May. The caseload for each week in June exceeded cases received in June 2019, resulting in a record-setting month for the most submissions ever recorded at the Laboratory. Submissions for the second half of 2020 continued to outpace 2019, and from July through December, cases were up 11 percent. As an example, the Laboratory received almost 14,000 additional endocrinology test requests, resulting in more than 31,000 additional tests performed.
Throughout the pandemic, the Laboratory remained open and operational while implementing necessary measures to keep personnel and clients safe.
Surveillance and/or annual testing is needed before animals or products are shipped, and ensures individual animals or herds are free from diseases of importance. These tests performed at the Laboratory help to protect poultry, cattle, swine, farmed deer, sheep, and bees critical for pollinating plant crops.
In addition, dogs and horses are tested prior to interstate and international transport or sale. Many animal diseases must be reported to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and/or state departments of agriculture for tracking and epidemiological purposes. This testing also is regulated, but is primarily performed on animals with clinical disease and/or as part of disease outbreak investigations. Examples of reportable disease testing in 2020 include brucellosis, eastern equine encephalitis, leptospirosis, West Nile virus, and avian, canine, equine, and swine influenza viruses.
In Michigan, 1 disease of high consequence has received significant attention throughout the past several years—chronic wasting disease (CWD). The Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory is 1 of only 10 laboratories nationwide authorized by the USDA to use both approved test methods for CWD. The Laboratory provides surveillance testing for both farmed and hunter-harvested cervids. In response to changes in testing and surveillance announced by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) for the 2020 hunting season, the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory developed a system to allow hunters to submit samples directly to the Laboratory. The Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory continues to support Michigan hunters and MDNR in efforts to identify CWD-positive animals and contain the spread of this fatal, contagious disease across the state.
Michigan State University’s veterinary medicine experts began monitoring SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans, in late January 2020. As the situation evolved, the Laboratory developed a test for animals. At the same time, it used protocols from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to set up and validate a diagnostic test for human samples so that the Laboratory would be prepared if additional testing capacity was needed. In late July, the University’s re-opening task force reviewed the Laboratory’s capabilities and asked for expanded capacity to help protect the campus community. On September 21, the Laboratory began testing samples collected on-campus daily, providing results to MSU Health Care within 24 hours or less.
The Laboratory has the capacity to conduct 1,000 human COVID tests per day, if needed.
Routine testing of animal samples for SARS-CoV-2 is not recommended. Testing is performed with authorization from state animal health and public health officials.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, approximately 1 in 4 dogs will develop neoplasia and almost half of dogs older than 10 will develop cancer. As with neoplasia in humans, tumors in pets can be benign or malignant. To diagnose tumors, veterinarians across the United States and beyond routinely turn to the Laboratory’s biopsy service due to its reputation for excellence among general practitioners and veterinary oncologists. The expertise of the Laboratory’s pathologists and advanced diagnostics assist in the diagnosis and prognosis of cancer in pets, which enables referring veterinarians to help pet owners ensure quality of life for their animals. In 2020, new tests for mammary tumors, assessment of lymph node metastasis, and to predict success of specific therapeutics were added, further demonstrating the Laboratory’s commitment to continued advancement in cancer diagnostics.
Supporting Michigan’s animal agriculture industry remains a vital part of the Laboratory’s mission. More than half of Michigan samples tested were from farmed animals.
The Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory has a wide, diverse caseload that serves small and large animal veterinary practitioners, wildlife agencies, zoos and aquariums, and animal agriculture agencies and producers. The Laboratory receives samples from clients across Michigan, all 50 states, Washington, DC, US territories, and 26 foreign countries. The Laboratory’s receiving department receives and processes 400-800 packages daily!