Lab Canada

Rapid tests set to improve Alberta’s BSE testing capacity

Edmonton, AB – February 9, 2004 – With the arrival of its first shipment of rapid tests, Alberta’s provincial government says it has tripled its livestock disease testing ability.

Previously, tests for BSE in cattle, Chronic Wasting Disease in elk and deer, as well as scrapie in sheep used the ‘gold standard’ immunohistochemistry test. Through a special permit from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), Alberta is now able to use an internationally recognized rapid test kit from France.

While an IHC test takes approximately two weeks to complete, the rapid test takes only 48 hours due to increased automation. However, as samples still have to be received, processed and the test results verified, some additional time will be added to the overall completion of the test.

IHC tests will continue to be used when a rapid test has an inconclusive or positive result. Positive results will continue to be referred to the CFIA’s BSE reference laboratory for confirmatory testing.

In addition to the rapid tests, a state-of-the-art Level 3 Biocontainment Lab is also under development, with construction slated to begin this spring. The lab will allow higher levels of disease monitoring and allow research to be conducted on biological agents that require a higher level of containment.

Originally announced last summer, the $15 million upgrade in lab facilities will include

– renovating the existing animal post-mortem room to increase biological containment to level II,
– renovating existing lab space to allow for enhanced surveillance for BSE and Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) using rapid screening methods, and
– a new histology lab.

The new lab and enhancements will cost approximately $10 million. The government says an additional $5 million will be used to enhance surveillance by hiring two more veterinary pathologists, increasing efficiency in lab procedures, and cross-training staff to deal with surges in sample numbers for testing.