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Sharing knowledge, creating synergy: 15th Epi-Labnet Meeting

29/05/2017

Can Tho, Viet Nam – The Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) of FAO Viet Nam in collaboration with the Department of Animal Health (DAH) organized the 15th Epi – Labnet meeting from 16 to 18 May 2017, in Can Tho. Network of Epidemiology and Laboratory (Epi-Labnet) is a working group established by DAH in 2006 to support disease surveillance, disease prevention and capacity development activities. Organized with the financial support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), 54 laboratory and epidemiology experts from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), Representatives of the Department of Animal Health and Production, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Cambodia, FAO, research institutes, and development partners joined the meeting.

During the meeting, the participants were informed and updated on the latest poultry, swine and aquatic animal diseases situation and identified gaps and solutions to improve animal disease outbreak prevention and responses. Passive surveillance (famers reporting unusual disease events to sub-DAH) was identified as insufficient, and farmer and local community awareness training was proposed. In addition, difficulties, strengths, weaknesses and possible solutions were identified in the current avian and swine influenza surveillance plan. To ensure the quality of the testing and test results at the laboratories, additional training and quality system testing will be conducted in the coming year. The meeting discussed proposal to prioritize and send or process urgent samples directly for sequencing and immediately share results to avoid long delays of results and unsatisfactory data sharing. Future trainings in sequencing and bioinformatics, as well as provision of primers and PCR reagents, will help DAH further benefit from sequence data.

The outcome of DAH participation in FAO regional laboratory networking activities were shared including molecular epidemiology, gene sequencing and laboratory quality control. Virus gene sequencing and molecular epidemiology are important methods to monitor the evolution of HPAI viruses throughout South East Asia. If transmission of viruses and genetic drifts can be detected early, prevention and control measures can be applied for effective prevention control. Harmonizing HPAI surveillance methodology and results among countries through external quality assurance program was identified as particularly important to allow comparison of results. The representative from Cambodia, briefed the audience on the Avian Influenza disease situation and laboratory capacity in Cambodia.

The meeting identified action points to improve disease outbreak response, active and passive surveillance, laboratory quality assurance, understanding of AI viruses and collaborative investigation with Cambodia. The next Epi-Labnet meeting preparation has already commenced and is expected to be held early 2018.