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Bird-flu test used to diagnose equine flu

Tony Pye, CSIRO scientist, preparing samples for genetic analysis of the equine influenza virus at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL).

September 13, 2007

A test developed for bird flu is successfully being used to test horses in Australia for equine influenza.

The test was developed by Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the Australian Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre (AB-CRC).

Equine influenza is caused by a strain of influenza virus that is related to, but differs from, the strain causing bird flu. The nucleic acid-based test can detect both strains of the bird flu virus as well as other strains of influenza virus and is complete in a few hours.

The Chief Executive Officer of the AB-CRC, Dr Stephen Prowse, says quick diagnosis of equine influenza is a key to controlling the disease.

"A rapid diagnostic test for influenza ensures that appropriate control and containment measures are implemented quickly," he says.

The bird flu test now being used as a first-line diagnostic test for equine influenza was developed within the microbiologically secure environment of CSIRO Livestock Industries' Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) in Geelong, Victoria, and was transferred to all major government veterinary laboratories in Australia and New Zealand.

The AB-CRC, CSIRO, the Rural Industries Research Development Corporation and the states supported trials to validate the tests and ensure accurate and rapid detection of the influenza virus.

AAHL Director, Dr Martyn Jeggo, says the development of the test and the transfer and validation are critical to our national diagnostic capacity.

"The close relationship between AAHL and the state veterinary diagnostic laboratories has been critical to the successful validation of the test and its use in this outbreak of equine influenza," Dr Jeggo says.

This provided a high level of confidence in Australia's capacity to detect equine influenza.

The AB-CRC was established in 2003 under the Federal Government's CRC Program to build national capacity to respond to emerging infectious disease threats. CSIRO and the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) have a co-funding arrangement in place to maintain a capability and capacity to deal with animal disease emergencies.


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