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Australia's Animal Health Laboratories

​​​ Australia’s animal health laboratories seeks to sustain and improve the quality of terrestrial and aquatic animal products, and to assure domestic and international market access through the development and application of best practice to veterinary laboratory services.

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National Animal Health Standards

The Animal Health Committee (AHC) is supported by a task group that reports to the National Biosecurity Committee (NBC) on national animal health laboratory standards and other quality assurance related functions. The task group meets on an ‘as-needs’ basis and its membership includes:

  • the state and territory animal health laboratories
  • the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL)
  • Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
  • Animal Health Australia (observer)
  • the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries.

A member of the AHC (currently the Director of the Australian Animal Health Laboratory) chairs the group.

The task group acts as a forum for national coordination on issues such as:

  • quality assurance
  • new test evaluation and development, including an up-to-date test register standard diagnostic procedures
  • laboratory emergency animal disease (EAD) preparedness and response
  • a national reference laboratory system
  • technical and policy advice relating to diagnostics, biosecurity and biosafety and related training opportunities
  • laboratory disease surveillance and the National Animal Health Information System (NAHIS).

Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL)

AAHL is a Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) national facility based in Geelong, Victoria and one of the six major high-containment animal health laboratories in the world. AAHL is designed for EAD diagnosis and research. Its diagnostic services are primarily funded by the department, including the following activities:

  • providing diagnosis of and emergency response to EADs, including relevant research and surveillance works
  • providing technical and scientific advice on EADs
  • providing education and training in EAD recognition and diagnosis for animal health workers
  • serving as an World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE)reference centre for bluetongue, avian influenza, Newcastle disease, Hendra and Nipah virus diseases, yellowhead disease, epizootic haematopoietic necrosis, ranavirus infection, abalone herpes-like virus disease, new and emerging diseases and laboratory capacity building, a Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reference laboratory for biological risk management, and a national reference laboratory for brucellosis and rabies.
  • maintaining and improving microbiological and physical security of the containment facility.

In addition to AAHL, the six central state or territory government laboratories and various private and university animal health laboratories support the national animal health system.

Standards and Accreditation

Government and major private animal health laboratories in Australia are accredited to relevant international standards (i.e. ISO/IEC 17025:2005) through the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA), which is a member of the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) and represents Australia in ILAC activities. Accreditation through NATA provides an important mechanism for formal recognition to competent testing services, thus improving the efficiency and competitiveness of Australian animal industries in international and national markets.

AHC, through its laboratory task group, maintains a comprehensive series of disease-based Australian and New Zealand Standard Diagnostic Procedures (ANZSDPs) and publishes revisions and new titles as required, in line with OIE recommended procedures with requirements specific to Australian situations included.

Quality Assurance (QA)

The Australian National Quality Assurance Program (ANQAP) and AAHL facilitates is accredited to relevant international standards (i.e. ISO/IEC 17043) and provides national and international inter-laboratory proficiency testing (PT) programs for a range of important animal diseases.

These PT programs cover assays used for quarantine, export certification and national disease control, including haematology, biochemistry, parasitology, histopathology, serology, molecular (genetic) detection, and bacteriology.

The Laboratories Emergency Animal Disease Diagnosis and Response (LEADDR) Network

AHC also oversees another national laboratory network, namely the LEADDR network, formed in early 2009. Its inception was linked to the understanding that successfully managing all technical aspects of testing capacity nationwide is crucial to launching an effective large-scale emergency response when required. As such the network aims to standardise, or otherwise harmonise, routine frontline testing platforms (such as serology and rapid molecular testing) for a number of targeted terrestrial and aquatic EADs through ANQAP or its own programs. Currently, the network consists of all the government animal health laboratories and the department.

World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Focal Point for Veterinary Laboratories

The OIE Focal Point for Veterinary Laboratories in Australia is Dr William Wong, who is responsible for co-ordinating and reporting veterinary laboratory issues to the OIE through the Chief Veterinary Officer as the Australian OIE Delegate. Should you wish to contact him, please email OIE Australia.