Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

Each day, the MSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory receives hundreds of samples from veterinarians and animal health partners across the United States and around the globe. In the world of veterinary diagnostics, one day has many stories. These are ours.

It’s 5:30 a.m. and technicians are already in the Histopathology Section to process yesterday’s Biopsy Service and Necropsy Service samples. At 7:15 a.m., a Laboratory courier arrives with the day’s first set of shipments. Staff begin opening them and follow standard operating procedures to ensure all samples are located and reconciled with submission forms. Additional shipments arrive throughout the morning from across the US and more than 26 other countries. Each sample is barcoded, scanned, and entered into the laboratory management system before it leaves Receiving for the section that will perform the requested tests.

By 10:00 a.m., the Endocrinology Section is a hive of activity. Laboratory technologists are sorting samples, setting up analyzers, and verifying results. Endocrinologists are answering phone calls from veterinarians, interpreting test results, and releasing client reports. World-renowned for its gold standard tests for endocrine disorders in animals, this section receives the most samples and conducts more testing than any other section. Commonly requested tests include hypo- and hyperthyroidism, diabetes, Cushing’s disease, Addison’s disease, and others.

Remember the Histopathology technicians working early this morning? Since then, they’ve processed the tissues they received in formalin onto glass slides and stained them for examination by pathologists. They also continue to perform testing and special staining methods throughout the day, which helps pathologists identify infectious agents and diagnose and predict various cancers. At 10:00 a.m., pathologists in the Biopsy Service pick up folders of slides for review. They examine and diagnose biopsies from all body systems. Cancer, internal medicine, and dermatology are the most common cases. The pathologists write and send reports to veterinarians that provide guidance for their patients.

That same morning, testing was requested for a patient at the MSU Veterinary Medical Center. Signs of a potential tick-borne infection were identified through blood tests performed by the Clinical Pathology Section, the only section of the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory housed outside the main facility. Located on the second floor of the Veterinary Medical Center, the Clinical Pathology Section’s proximity makes it easy for clinicians to drop off samples. Based on this dog’s abnormal blood count and blood smear, samples were sent over to the main Laboratory’s Immunodiagnostics and Parasitology Section for tick-borne disease testing. By 2:00 p.m., the patient was confirmed to have anaplasmosis, an increasingly common tick-borne disease in pets and humans.

By 4:00 p.m., you might think the day is wrapping up, but the Laboratory just received a call that there are several sick chickens on a Michigan poultry farm. Suspecting highly pathogenic avian influenza, an accredited USDA veterinarian is heading out to collect samples, to be delivered to the Laboratory’s just after 7:00 p.m. Members of the Virology Section are among the few laboratorians in the US authorized to test for this high-consequence disease. They begin preparing for testing. Immediately upon arrival, the samples are taken into the Laboratory’s enhanced biosafety level 3 area, where they are unpacked and processed. This area’s personal protective equipment, biosafety cabinets, air handling, and required shower-out protect people from potential zoonotic diseases, as well as the agricultural community from pathogenic threats. The staff likely will be in the Laboratory until midnight, and will not leave until results are sent to state and federal officials.

Behind every sample, there is an animal, and with each animal, there is a person. Ensuring timely and accurate diagnostics is part of our commitment to protecting animal and public health. The MSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory invests in both the personnel and technologies necessary to face tomorrow’s challenging pathogens.

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