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ISU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory Plays Key Role in Animal Disease Detection

May 5, 2009
Dr. K. J. Yoon, Professor and Virologist, ISU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, (515) 294-1083
Dr. Rodger Main, Director, ISU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, (515) 294-1950
Dr. Pat Halbur, Professor and Chair, Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Medicine, (515) 294-6970
Mr. Tom Ligouri, Veterinary Communications, (515) 294-4257
Ms. Tracy Ann Raef, Veterinary Communications, (515) 294-4602


Iowa State’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (VDL) is a critical component of Iowa’s frontline defense for infectious and emerging disease preparedness affecting animals and humans. A key role and day-to-day responsibility of the veterinary diagnosticians at Iowa State is closely monitoring the incidence of animal diseases, including those caused by swine influenza viruses (SIV). The VDL utilizes state-of-the-art molecular diagnostic technology to diagnose swine influenza, track seasonal trends in disease prevalence, and monitor which strains or subtypes of SIV are most prevalent. In this way, diagnostic results are used to help veterinarians and producers understand the health status of their animals and what vaccine or other control measures are appropriate.

With the emergence of the novel influenza virus (Type A/H1N1) causing illness in people, Dr. K.J. Yoon, veterinarian and virologist, and his team of molecular diagnosticians are analyzing a bank of swine influenza viruses from cases submitted to the VDL from October 2008 to April 2009 to determine if the human Type A/H1N1 strain is present in the Iowa swine population. Thus far, analyses of swine influenza viruses sequenced indicate this novel H1N1 virus has not been circulating in the domestic pig population.
“Each day we are learning more about this novel influenza virus,” said Dr. Yoon. "We are particularly learning more about its genetic makeup. This virus was originally coined the name “Swine Flu” as it contains viral components that have been previously identified in influenza viruses causing disease in pigs. However, this novel H1N1 virus has been reportedly spreading primarily from direct human-to- human contact, which is more similar to how emerging strains of 'seasonal influenza' are commonly transmitted. It is also important to understand that influenza virus is transmitted by direct exposure to respiratory secretions, and is not a foodborne illness or food safety concern." 
Diagnostic testing for the novel virus at the VDL is currently performed by gene sequence analysis which can take as long as seven days. Researchers at Iowa State are quickly developing a high through-put polymerase chain reaction (PCR) diagnostic test that will allow veterinary diagnosticians to quickly differentiate human, swine and avian-lineage viruses, usually within 24 hours.
“We have an excellent team of applied veterinary diagnosticians and researchers working diligently to serve the emerging needs of our stakeholders helping safeguard both animal and human health,” said Dr. Rodger Main, Director of Iowa State’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory Operations.
The Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Iowa State University is the only fully accredited public veterinary diagnostic laboratory in Iowa. Each year the diagnostic laboratory completes over 40,000 case submissions serving veterinarians and livestock producers in Iowa and throughout the United States. The VDL is one of 12 core laboratories in the National Animal Health Network, a network of laboratories that conduct targeted surveillance as well as re­sponse testing for foreign animal diseases and other ad­verse animal health events using standardized assays, profi­ciency training, and communication.