The session examined the impact of transportation on the health status of the transported animals. It began with an overview of critical junctures with hazardous potential, and concluded with an analysis of issues relating to transport of animals with commonly encountered health issues (e.g., pregnancy, genetic modifications).
Kathleen Pritchett-Corning, senior clinical veterinarian at Harvard University, spoke to attendees about the health status of animals before, during, and after transit. She defined an animal’s health status as the presence or absence of various microbiologic agents monitored.1 Specifically, Pritchett-Corning noted the junctures where healthy animals might risk infection by microbiological agents while being transported. Such agents can not only affect the animals’ health but render them unusable for research. They also can have significant and long-lasting effects on receiving institutions that need to clean up those agents.
Pritchett-Corning suggested that shippers follow the law regarding maintaining the health status of animals during transport. National laws governing animal import exist to protect agriculture and human health. Often exemptions from some testing for laboratory animals exist, but consignors need to be sure that their paperwork and statements meet the legal and regulatory requirements outlined in the exemptions.
She reminded attendees that the health status of the animal is generally the responsibility of the consignor and not the carrier. She further pointed out that the best way to avoid risks of infection is to ship and/ or receive animals transported by dedicated carriers. “If your carrier has controlled the shipment from door to door, as most of the major laboratory animal vendors do, then the risk is greatly reduced. Alas, as we’ve heard earlier in the morning, due to cost, logistics, and other things, door-to-door
1 Also found here: http://www.ne-bsa.org/2014%20Sept%20NEBSA%20biosecurity%20from%20a%20rodent's%20point%20of%20view.pdf (accessed on September 14, 2017).
deliveries are unlikely to be possible for research institutions and universities.”
According to the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP)2 principles, the greatest risk is that animals will change health status during transport and infect animals at the receiving facility. (Box 4-1 identifies control points where contamination risks may exist.) Importantly, such a change may not be immediately obvious. “We need to make sure that, when we receive animals, the integrity of the crate is maintained, that the crate is disinfected properly, and that we enter the crate in a way that maintains the disinfection and the integrity of the crate,” she said.
Pritchett-Corning shared an experience she and her colleagues had with recurring mouse parvovirus outbreaks in a specific pathogen free (SPF) immunology facility. For 3 years in a row, mice were stricken with parvovirus toward the end of the year. Eventually, she and her colleagues deduced that wild rodents came in from the outside in late fall and early winter to avoid the cold. They would venture into warm places like airline shipping holding facilities, where laboratory animal crates were palletized, leaving behind feces.
“To sum up, there is a risk of health status change during transport for laboratory rodents, because you can’t always control what is next to
2 According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), HACCP is a management system in which food safety is addressed through the analysis and control of biological, chemical, and physical hazards from raw material production, procurement, and handling, to manufacturing, distribution, and consumption of the finished product (https://www.fda.gov/food/guidanceregulation/haccp) (accessed on September 14, 2017).
your rodents,” she said. “You can’t control for all these risks . . . but you can take precautions on arrival to protect your facility.”
Lynn Anderson focused on the transportation of animals with special health-related conditions (see Box 4-2). Immunocompromised animals must be shipped in a container capable of excluding microorganisms, she noted. However, other than their increased susceptibility to infection and possible lack of insulating hair coat, requirements during shipment are the same as for other animals.
Recovery time required before a surgically modified animal can be shipped varies with the complexity of surgery and the animals’ response to surgery. Animals need sufficient postoperative recovery to withstand the stress of shipment, Anderson said, which may be only 1 or 2 days for minor procedures but longer for more extensive operations. Animals with complications from surgery or requiring daily therapy should not be shipped, and animals with devices surgically implanted that have exteriorized components should be transported in individual containers or compartments.
Laboratory animals are typically exposed to environmental changes during transport, Anderson observed. These can affect both their light cycle and their food consumption patterns. Animals will often lose up to 10 percent of their body weight because they do not drink much during the first 12 to 15 hours of transit. Water provision is prescribed by regulations, but animals still need to be hydrated when they arrive at a facility.
Anderson talked briefly about nonhuman primates, noting that they are not wild caught but are purpose-bred, highly social animals with complex behaviors. Their shipping container should be constructed so that animals cannot escape, and so that food (the same food they are accustomed to) and water during transit can be provided without opening the animal compartment. In the case of an escape, only trained personnel should attempt to capture them as these animals can cause injuries.