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Pirbright twins with Philippines to improve African swine fever control

24 June 2021, at 1:09am

Experts at The Pirbright Institute kicked off a new World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) twinning project in early June with the Animal Disease Diagnosis and Reference Laboratory, part of the Bureau of Animal Industry’s Veterinary Laboratory Division (BAI- VLD- ADDRL) in the Philippines. The project will build capacity for African swine fever (ASF) testing at ADDRL, which is essential for bringing the disease under control.

Dr Carrie Batten at the speaking podium, ready to commence the virtual OIE ASF twinning project kick-off meeting
Dr Carrie Batten at the speaking podium, ready to commence the virtual OIE ASF twinning project kick-off meeting

The Philippines is one of the largest pig producers in Asia and has been hit particularly hard by ASF, reporting the loss of 3 million pigs since the disease first reached the country in 2019. The outbreak has had a devastating impact on food security and economic prosperity in the Philippines owing to their reliance on pork as an important source of food and income.

As an OIE reference laboratory for African swine fever, Pirbright’s staff are highly trained to carry out global surveillance and diagnostic activities for ASF. The twinning project will enhance the ADDRL’s diagnostic capability through the provision of training from Pirbright’s experienced scientists.

Pirbright’s reference laboratories have run several successful twinning projects to help labs across the globe improve their diagnostic capabilities for various animal diseases, which have always featured an element of in-person laboratory training. However, with the movement and safety restrictions necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, new eLearning courses have been developed by the SPirE (Sharing Pirbright’s Expertise) group at Pirbright to bridge the gap until in-person training can be resumed.

30 individuals from ADDRL and the Regional Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratories (RADDLs) will progress through several interactive, online modules that cover diagnosing and characterising the ASF virus, biosafety and quality assurance. Mentoring sessions with Pirbright staff will also provide expert guidance for attendees. The professional development support provided by the Institute will work towards ADDRL meeting specific standards required for them to gain OIE ASF reference laboratory status for South East Asia.

Dr Carrie Batten, Head of the Non-Vesicular Reference Laboratory at Pirbright, said: “Sharing our longstanding diagnostic expertise with ADDRL will help the Philippines to quickly diagnose outbreaks so that control measures can be implemented to drive down the circulation of ASF. This will not only improve pig welfare and protect livelihoods in the Philippines but will also reduce the risk of outbreaks to the rest of the region.”