From Mallory Pfeifer
Cross-border and emerging diseases are a constant threat to the livestock industry. Even if biosafety measures have evolved, there is still a risk of highly contagious or newly discovered diseases that affect animal health.
New study aims to alleviate cross-border and emerging diseases in farm animals.
The aim of the project is to use next generation sequencing, NGS, to develop new methods for the early detection of cross-border and emerging diseases in the cattle industry. This project investigates the viruses responsible for foot and mouth disease as well as the viruses within the complex of respiratory diseases in cattle – bovine virus diarrhea virus, bovine coronavirus, bovine respiratory syncytial virus and cattle – Parainfluenza virus type 3.
One of the overarching goals of this project is the development of uniform procedures and protocols when using NGS technologies and the training of specialists from NAHLN laboratories. After completion, the results of this project will be implemented throughout the NAHLN.
"Completion of this project will improve the NAHLN's diagnostic skills and preparation for emerging diseases," said Dimitrov. "The assays developed and staff training will facilitate the implementation of NGS diagnostic methods across the NAHLN."
In the first two years of this project, the research team will develop and optimize targeted and random NGS diagnostic workflows in order to identify and characterize current, transboundary and emerging pathogens in cattle at an early stage. In the first two years, highly qualified bioinformaticians will continue to develop fast, semi-automatic bioinformatics pipelines for data analysis. The third and final year of the project includes training the NAHLN laboratories on NGS procedures and processes that the team is developing.
What is Next Generation Sequencing?
Next-generation sequencing is a broad term for the use of modern, high-throughput methods for DNA sequencing. These methods enable the faster and cheaper detection of DNA and RNA in biological samples and the characterization of pathogens.
Currently, real-time polymerase chain reaction [rtPCR] assays are most commonly used in diagnostic laboratories for the rapid detection of pathogens. These tests are useful, but they are based on existing genomic information and may not detect emerging pathogens or variants of known pathogens. In addition, rtPCR assays do not provide specific genomic information necessary to track the cause of disease outbreaks and differentiate strains – vital information necessary for the development of an epidemiological corrective action.
Although NGS technologies exist, their widespread use in diagnostic laboratories is hindered. Currently, the use of NGS is limited by the lack of standardized protocols and procedures and the need for highly specialized methods of analyzing biological data called bioinformatics, as well as the lack of NGS training that has been scaled for diagnostic purposes.
The role of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network
In the past few decades, diseases such as avian influenza, African swine fever, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, BSE and swine flu have spread to various animal industries. These cases severely hampered the trade and production of animals and resulted in effects outside their respective animal industries.
Established in 2002, NAHLN is a nationally coordinated effort to mitigate the impact of highly contagious disease outbreaks on the country's animal health, public health and food supply. The network consists of 60 state and university veterinary diagnostic laboratories in the United States. Each laboratory can test a large number of samples for specific pathogens. These skills are essential in animal disease outbreaks and support response methods.
Pathogens mean considerable losses
Cattle diseases are expensive in all segments of the livestock industry. In particular, cattle respiratory diseases are associated with annual economic losses of over $ 800 million.
"The US is the world's largest producer of beef and cow's milk," said Dimitrov. “About 20% of the world's beef is produced in the US. Exported beef and dairy products are over $ 8 billion and $ 6 billion, respectively, annually. These enormous industries are of enormous socio-economic importance, and it is of paramount importance to protect them from cross-border and emerging pathogens. "
Source : tamu.edu