Colorado State University has been selected to be part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s national BSE laboratory network established to increase testing for bovine spongiform encephalopathy or ‘mad cow disease’ in the United States. The university’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory was chosen as one of only seven laboratories nationwide for high throughput, or high volume, BSE testing.
Colorado State’s high-security diagnostic laboratory is the only one of the seven facilities selected that is presently equipped with the high throughput equipment needed to conduct the necessary volume of testing. The equipment was installed in 2002 when the laboratory, in conjunction with the Colorado Department of Wildlife, tested and approved the robotic system for use in the United States for chronic wasting disease, or CWD, testing. The robotic system is part of the Bio-Rad rapid test, also validated at Colorado State, and recently approved by the USDA for BSE testing.
The robotic system automates a portion of the testing procedure, speeding sample preparation and enabling laboratories to provide faster results using fewer technicians. With the automated system, the Colorado State diagnostic laboratory will be able to provide same day results for BSE samples received by noon.
"Colorado State has extensive experience using the Bio-Rad rapid test and high throughput robotic equipment, and is the only lab in the nation with this level of expertise. Using this system, we have tested nearly 47,000 deer and elk samples for CWD in the last 18 months alone, and have a capacity of conducting 990 tests per day," said Barbara Powers, director of the diagnostic laboratory. "We applaud USDA’s comprehensive BSE testing plan and are working with them to coordinate and implement the details."
According to Powers, the seven selected national high throughput laboratories have more than enough capacity to conduct USDA’s targeted 268,000 BSE tests over the next 12-18 months. For example, Colorado State’s laboratory alone has the capacity to conduct more than 150,000 such tests per year.
In addition to Colorado State’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, the other six selected laboratories are: California Animal Health and Food Safety Lab System, University of California-Davis; Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory-College Station; Wisconsin Animal Health Laboratory-Madison; Washington State University Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory; Athens Diagnostic Laboratory, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia; and NY State College of Veterinary Medicine, Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, Cornell University. Other laboratories that meet specific criteria may be certified to analyze surveillance samples in the future.
BSE and CWD are similar illnesses and both are transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, or TSEs, diseases that cause neurodegenerative disorders and are characterized by the accumulation of an abnormal form of the naturally occurring prion protein in the central nervous system. Laboratory testing procedures for the diseases are identical.
Colorado State University’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory System’s responsibilities include monitoring and testing for animal diseases. The laboratory is part of both of USDA’s two networks of laboratories: the TSE contract laboratory network of 26 USDA inspected laboratories, and the National Animal Health Laboratory Network of 12 laboratories. The Colorado State laboratory is also accredited by the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians as a full service laboratory for all species of animals.