For immediate release: November 16, 2023
The Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, a member of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN), has been selected to represent the Midwest region in a nationwide effort to enhance diagnostic capabilities for early detection of emerging diseases. This new partnership is funded through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).
The NAHLN is a national network of 63 academic, state, and federal laboratories that serve as the first line of defense against high-consequence animal diseases. These laboratories work closely with USDA National Veterinary Services’ Laboratories reference laboratories based in Iowa and Plum Island. When the Plum Island operations move to the new National Bio and Agrodefense Facility (NBAF) in Kansas, the USDA mission will expand to include high-consequence zoonotic diseases such as Ebola and Rift Valley fever viruses. The new partnership, the NAHLN-NBAF Partnership to Improve Early Detection of Emerging Diseases, seeks to build stronger diagnostic detection capabilities for important diseases of animals and humans.
Five laboratories within the network were selected to identify diagnostic capacity needs in their respective regions, create a strategy to fill existing gaps, and develop new tests for emerging diseases. The scientist based at the MSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory will lead initiatives across the eight Midwest laboratories and work collaboratively with the four scientists representing the other regions, the NAHLN Program Office, and the NBAF. Together the five regional scientists will be responsible for evaluating local, regional, national, and international threats, and ensuring the NAHLN laboratories have the tools necessary to diagnose emerging animal and zoonotic pathogens.
“We are thrilled to announce this partnership,” said Dr. Rosemary Sifford, USDA’s Chief Veterinarian. “Our goal is to ensure all network laboratories are poised to combat the threat of transboundary and emerging diseases to protect our nation’s agricultural and food supply systems.”
Each of the host laboratories will have a specific focus related to their expertise and/or the region’s geographic location or agricultural commodities. The MSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory will leverage its team’s broad diagnostic expertise to identify and implement emerging technologies to enhance disease detection capabilities.
“I am honored that the MSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory was selected to represent our region in this exciting new national partnership. Most emerging human diseases arise from an animal source. The laboratories within the NAHLN test millions of animal samples every year, creating a unique opportunity to build more robust early detection capabilities to detect and identify both known and novel pathogens before they cause severe disease in animal or human populations,” says Dr. Kimberly Dodd, laboratory director at the MSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.
“Our laboratory has proven we can respond quickly to protect animal and public health in Michigan from emerging and reemerging diseases. In recent years, we provided rapid diagnostics for highly pathogenic avian influenza and SARS-CoV-2. We’re also actively partnering with stakeholders statewide to plan and prepare for potential incursions of foreign animal diseases. We look forward to hosting a regional scientist who will elevate and advance capacity and collaboration across the Midwest.”
The MSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory will receive $1.1 million over four years to recruit a highly qualified and collaborative scientist with extensive expertise in infectious disease diagnostics.
In a separate APHIS partnership, the MSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory was recently selected as the implementing partner for the USDA’s new Unusual Morbidity/Mortality Event program, established to help chase down diagnoses when initial diagnostic tests fail to identify a cause for significant illness or deaths in animals. The Laboratory’s role will be to administer and distribute funds or, as a NAHLN laboratory, to perform testing if requested.
The MSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, a service unit in the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine, is a premier, full-service, fully accredited veterinary diagnostic laboratory. On average, the Laboratory performs over one million tests per year for more than 300,000 animals. The Laboratory is a member of key federal networks charged with protecting animal and public health, and their core diagnostics, expert service, and innovative solutions have earned them over 10,000 clients in all 50 states and more than 25 countries.