27 May 2014 - Since the Indonesian economy suffered severe losses to its poultry production sector after it was exposed to Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in 2003, the Government of Indonesia has been developing strategies to fight the influenza virus in poultry. According to guidance from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) joint Network of Expertise on Animal Influenza (OFFLU), it is only through implementing a field influenza virus monitoring and surveillance programme to identify new and variant strains of the H5N1 virus that it is possible to achieve successful HPAI vaccination programmes in poultry, using vaccines appropriately matched to H5N1 field strains.
Supported by OFFLU as well as FAO's Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) Indonesia, the Government of Indonesia increased the capacity of eight animal health diagnostic laboratories since 2009 to monitor, detect and characterize avian influenza H5N1 viruses circulating in the country. In addition, a vision was developed of the required tasks and collaboration to be conducted at national level for constant monitoring of circulating influenza strains. An animal health laboratory-based influenza virus monitoring network took shape where laboratories detect, characterize and assess viruses via a monitoring and analysis platform and communicate their results to decision makers. From 2011, this developed into a sustainable animal health laboratory network and web-based platform for influenza virus monitoring: IVM Online.
Mr Syukur Iwantoro, Director General of Livestock and Animal Health Services (DGLAHS) at the Ministry of Agriculture of Indonesia, officially launched the IVM Online platform on 20 May 2014. The event was followed by a Bioinformatics Training Workshop for members of the IVM Network of animal health laboratories, with the participation of Indonesian trainers as well as bioinformatics experts from the Australian Animal Health Laboratory and FAO headquarters.
The establishment of IVM Online has three main objectives: i) to identify potential influenza virus variants; ii) to monitor the efficacy of H5 vaccines used for poultry; and iii) to ensure the relevance of existing challenge strains for vaccine registration. Participation in the IVM network allows specifically trained diagnostic laboratory staff to follow harmonized standard operating procedures using quality-assured reagents and protocols to characterize the avian influenza viruses received in their laboratory, thus ensuring high quality results. All results of pre-screening tests on field viruses are analysed by the focal point HPAI reference laboratory and further advanced antigenic tests are carried out on selected viruses. The final step in virus characterization is the genetic sequencing of the virus, conducted at one of four Ministry of Agriculture sequencing partner laboratories (Disease Investigation Centre [DIC] Bukittinggi, PUSVETMA, BBLITVET and BBPMSOH).
In the event of identifying a new or an antigenically changed virus strain, the information is sent to the Director of Animal Health/Chief Veterinary Officer to decide whether it is necessary to re-define the most appropriate and best matched HPAI challenge and vaccine strains. This will ensure that the vaccines used in Indonesia are effective in protecting poultry from H5N1 HPAI.
IVM Online offers tools to map and visualize the antigenic and genetic characteristics of HPAI viruses in Indonesia which will serve as key data for the selection of HPAI vaccine candidate strains and their registration. Currently the online system is being implemented in the DGLAHS' DIC laboratories where technical staff upload laboratory data for the purpose of analysis. The analysed output from IVM Online on the distribution of different H5N1 clade viruses in Indonesia may be used to determine the need for new and multiple antigen (multivalent) vaccines in Indonesia and support the review of HPAI vaccine registration procedures. All laboratories and partners have access to all data in IVM Online.
Future plans for the IVM Online platform include expanding the geographic mapping of isolates through closer linking of genetic and epidemiological data, improved antigenic mapping and visualization, as well as integration in the system of data on other influenza subtypes such as H7N9 and H7N7. Ultimately, the goal is to expand the participation in the application to include laboratories from universities and the private poultry industry, as well as strengthen the regional and global laboratory networking in order to face the emergence of numerous different zoonotic influenza viruses. There is also significant scope for increasing the achievements of the IVM network and developing linkages with other online systems like EMPRES-i, the FAO online global database for reliable information on animal disease events that contains an influenza genetic module, and complements the functionality of IVM Online.