Animal Production Health Laboratory

Some one billion of the world's poorest people depend on livestock for their day-to-day livelihoods, both as a source of food and to generate the power necessary to tend their fields. To reduce poverty and ensure global food security, there is an urgent need to increase livestock production. The APHL assists Member States in their efforts to improve livestock productivity through the efficient use of locally available feed resources, suitable management and breeding practices for indigenous animals, and diagnostic tools and prophylactic measures for the control of important animal diseases.

Celebrating 50 Years 1964 - 2014, Joint FAO/IAEA Division Animal Health - Early and rapid diagnostic platforms. An important feat of the global rinderpest eradication programme was the development by APHL, in cooperation with its partners, of diagnostic tests for the large-scale monitoring of rinderpest vaccination campaigns and disease surveillance in the field. It was also the driving force in establishing the rinderpest laboratory network and in introducing quality diagnostic and epidemiological systems in Member State laboratories. The APHL today devotes its globally unique capacity towards some of the world's major transboundary diseases, including highly pathogenic avian influenza, footand- mouth disease, capripox diseases and peste-des-petits ruminants, the next livestock disease targeted by the FAO and the World Organisation for Animal health (OIE) for global eradication.

Traceability of animals. A key focus relates to the use of nuclear and related techniques to trace transboundary animal movements and to investigate the epidemiology and ecology of concomitant pathogens, the current focus being on bird migrations and the associated highly pathogenic avian influenza. The finding that the concentration of stable isotopes in inert animal tissues correlates with their spatial distribution in the environment and is sufficiently constant to reflect migratory pathways, and the detection of both bird and virus DNA in faeces may provide a model platform for monitoring migration and disease epidemiology in both long- and short-range migrants.

Irradiated vaccines. While numerous live vaccines against viral and bacterial pathogens have been successfully developed, this has failed in most cases of parasitic diseases. Recent developments in pathogen irradiation technology and immunology now make it possible to ascertain the specific cellular immune response to parasitic pathogens and hence to assess the protective quality of potential vaccines. A major focus of the APHL is the development of vaccines based on the irradiation of pathogens to inactivate multiplication but maintaining a temporary capacity to synthesize proteins that may induce a better immune response. Current emphasis is on the development of an irradiated trypanosome vaccine to control animal African trypanosomiasis, a most devastating disease that prevents sustainable and profitable livestock farming in almost two-thirds of sub-Saharan Africa.

Celebrating 50 Years 1964 - 2014, Joint FAO/IAEA Division Animal Production - Animal genetic resources for reproduction and breeding platforms. A further focus aims to counter the threat to livestock biodiversity. It supports Member States in implementing the Global Plan of Action on Animal Genetic Resources (GPA-AnGR) through capacity building and transferring technologies related to evaluation and characterization of animal breeds. Local animal breeds generally possess valuable traits, such as adaptation to extremely dry conditions or resistance to parasites or infectious diseases. The APHL utilizes radiation hybrid panel mapping technology to map genes responsible for disease resistance and develops DNA marker tools to identify and exploit useful characteristics.

Current research targets the breeding of goats and sheep with resistance to gastro-intestinal parasites, a disease that causes global annual losses exceeding US $10 billion. This research is linked with the creation of web-accessible databases to enable counterparts in Member States to assess genetic diversity within their own specific indigenous livestock breeds. Together, this will enable a uniquely focussed breeding response to rapidly occurring environmental changes.

For more information visit Animal Production and Health Laboratory webpage.