Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) reference serum bank initiative

Standardisation and harmonisation of procedures for animal disease diagnosis is important for trade so that test results obtained in one country are acceptable by other countries. However, apart from operational procedures, the materials used as standards, for example antiserum controls, also determine the consistency of test results.  Ideally if agreed reference standards were used, inter-laboratory variation could be better measured and greatly reduced. In practice, such standardisation is not easy to achieve due to the complexity and variation of animal diseases and with the specific test system. Thus, there has been great reluctance of any organisation to take on the task of preparing, characterizing, maintaining and distributing standards.

Laboratory The IAEA (through the Animal Production and Health (APH) Sub-programme of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division) has started the process of collecting and characterizing reference standards, beginning with foot and mouth disease (FMD). The importation of sera from member states is now possible through cooperation with the Austrian Veterinary Authorities. Samples are irradiated immediately on arrival and stored in the Animal Production Unit at the Seibersdorf Biotechnology Laboratories.

The APH has contracted a laboratory in South Africa to produce sera from cattle after infection with FMD virus (SAT 1, 2 and 3), and in 2006 will produce similar sera against FMD virus types O, A and Asia 1. Studies are being undertaken at the Seibersdorf Biotechnology laboratories that use such sera as standards for the various ELISA tests to check for the existence of antibodies against non structural proteins of the FMD virus. These tests determine whether animals are infected or have been merely vaccinated, and are vital to member states who need to provide proof of FMD-free status.

Possible sources of standards are being obtained from other member states in bulk quantities through technical contracts and also through good cooperation with commercial enterprises. The IAEA expects to adopt a reference status for certain sera and such standards will be amalgamated into other international initiatives. Work to characterize sera will be performed at the IAEA laboratories at Seibersdorf and at the Austrian State FMD laboratory in Hetzendorf.