Research theme : Virology
National Reference Laboratory
CODA-CERVA is the National Reference Laboratory for most viral diseases included in the list of the World Organisation for Animal health (OIE).
Among these, the epizootic diseases (formerly list A) feature prominently, given their serious socio-economic impacts.
Among these diseases are foot-and-mounth disease, Classical swine fever, African swine fever, vesicular stomatitis, vesicular swine disease, contagious nodular dermatitis, Rift Valley fever, goat and sheep pox, bluetongue, rinderpest, peste des petits ruminants, African horse sickness, avian influenza and Newcastle disease.
Moreover, some of these diseases present zoonotic risks (i.e. transmission from animals to humans), such as avian influenza, Rift Valley fever and West Nile virus.
Development of diagnosis methods
Research is focused primarily on developing direct and indirect methods of diagnosis, identification and molecular typing. The tests produced will be used at CODA-CERVA or at screening centres.
Diagnosis of enzootic diseases (IBR, BVD, Aujeszky disease, etc) is performed at accreditated laboratories under CODA-CERVA supervision, whereas laboratory diagnosis of epizootic diseases is carried out only at CODA-CERVA. The development of new methods aims at integrated diagnosis of a pathogenic agent with cross-reacting viruses.
Furthermore, the diagnosis must allow the discrimination between infected animals and vaccinated animals when implementing a vaccination strategy. This strategy as applied to foot-and-mouth disease is currently being tested for classical swine fever, avian influenza and bluetongue.
For over 10 years, CODA-CERVA has been developing cutting-edge techniques in avian immunology, notably for measuring cell-mediated immunity. Such still-increasing specificity makes CODA-CERVA the partner of choice in national and European research programmes.
Prophylaxis of epizootic viral diseases
Prophylaxis of epizootic viral diseases is the second important area of research at CODA-CERVA.
This consists in developing, assessing and validating new methods of combating these highly contagious agents. CODA-CERVA is active in the field of vaccinology for foot-and-mouth disease (correlation between antigen levels and protection), classical swine fever (development in validating a new marker vaccine) and avian virology (applying for a patent for in-ovo NDV vaccine, evaluation of avian influenza vaccines).
In collaboration with KUL's Rega Institute and its spin off Okapi Sciences, the CODA-CERVA develops effective and selective anti-viral molecules that delay the spread of an epizootic and that can be combined with an emergency vaccination programme.
Recent, present and future activites, activites
The last few years have been notable for significant progress in the fight against epizootic and exotic diseases.
During the summer of 2006, bluetongue made its appearance in this country, the Netherlands and Germany. Our laboratory was the first to isolate and describe this virus, which had never been found at such latitudes. For CODA-CERVA, this success was the fruit of a preparedness of several years facing this new danger.
We have since been developing high throughput automated molecular detection methods in order to make our services even more high-performing for regulatory authorities.
Our work also focused on analysing this new epidemic with regard to its epidemiology and risk-analysis, also with regard to analysing the molecular characteristics of this serotype 8 virus. This work takes place in the context of international scientific collaborations, bringing together key players in this field.
Avian Influenza has been a major concern and interest for the various surveillance programmes organised by the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC) and for the numerous national and international research programmes aiming at the improvement of the methods of detection and typing, but also at the development of effective control methods.
Developing new fighting methods has also been an important issue in classical swine fever in relation to branded vaccines for wild boar and anti-virals, which forms a new step in early protection of suidae, awaiting the onset of an immune response after emergency vaccination.
In global terms, many molecular tests have been developed, validated, implemented and approved for the detection and/or typing of various viral agents.
These developments enable CODA-CERVA to respond even more rapidly and accurately to the increasingly diverse demands made by regulatory authorities and by the sector as a whole.
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