hence, it is not biohazardous.” Additional benefits include the ability to test samples at dispersed sites and to run multiple samples by using automation.
Dr. Bruce Akey, Chief of the Office of Laboratory Services, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, noted that PCR is one important answer to the need for quick, accurate, and affordable diagnostic tests. Rapid or real-time PCR diagnostics are already being validated at USDA’s Plum Island Animal Disease Center for doing foreign animal disease work, he said.
Akey addressed the need for accurate tests. “It is not good having a fast test, or even a cheap test, if the results don’t tell you anything.” Tests should be validated to international standards (i.e., OIE standards), yet many of the tests, especially molecular diagnostics, that have been developed in-house in state and university labs have never been subjected to such validation, he said. The related issue of standardization of protocols is also critical, he said.
Rexroad addressed the need for new vaccines “that we could produce in this country, that don’t entail the use of a live virus, perhaps peptide vaccines or something that is based on DNA.” Other priorities for research include vaccines that (1) can quickly induce an immune state and prevent a carrier state, (2) have a long-lasting immune response, (3) can be produced in large quantities to meet demand in the event of an outbreak, and (4) are affordable. He said the ARS is working on viral-vectored foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) vaccines and is in the process of testing peptide vaccines.
Genomics plays a strong role in the development of new vaccines “in terms of understanding the immune response of the animal to a particular immunogen, but also how you can make a practical vaccine,” he said. Rexroad noted that genomics is now a focus of research at the Plum Island facility, where “genomics is playing a major role in terms of trying to understand the organisms, [and in] identifying the organisms that are likely to have a role in the emergence of new diseases in this country.”
Akey also stressed the importance of confidentiality in the handling of samples and test results, noting that producers are often reluctant to participate, fearing that they may face negative publicity or liability for a pathogen that is later traced back to their operation. Each state has its own Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requirements, and, in Virginia’s case, labs are completely open to FOIA requests. “That scares off producers who don’t want to bring something into the state laboratory if they have a suspicion that it might