FAO in Sierra Leone

FAO' s support to Sierra Leone's Central Veterinary Laboratory enables confirmation of rabies in dogs

The Central Veterinary Laboratory

Freetown The Central Veterinary Laboratory (CVL) workers in Teko, Sierra Leone, confirmed dog rabies for the first time using Fluorescent antibody test (FAT), since many years, after operationalization of the laboratory by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) under Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The laboratory has since received 6 dog brain samples and positively detected the rabies virus in four. Positive samples were shipped to OIE reference centre in France which validated the results which confirms the competency of Central Veterinary Laboratory, Teko in rabies virus detection using FAT. Dog-bites and suspected rabies cases in humans have been on the rise in the recent past, as documented by the Ministries of Health and Agriculture. This great milestone was made possible by a long-term and comprehensive workforce training and laboratory development implemented by FAO Emergency Center for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD).

Rabies is endemic in Sierra Leone and has been ranked as one of the top priority zoonotic diseases in the country. District Livestock Officers collected suspected rabies samples from suspect dogs showing furious rabies signs and submitted to the Central Veterinary Laboratory for rabies confirmation. The samples were tested for the presence of rabies virus by using rapid antigen test for rabies. The CVL further ran advanced confirmatory diagnostic test using Fluorescent Antibody Test (FAT) of which four returned positive test results. The laboratory used OIE  gold standard test and staff had been trained ensuring testing was carried out accurately. ‘Since this is the first time in many years the CVL has confirmed dog rabies, we shipped  the samples to OIE reference laboratory for Rabies in France (ANSES)  to confirm our results which came back positive and for quality assurance.” said  FAO ECTAD Country Team Leader, Dr. Germain Bobo.

A breakthrough for Animal Health in the country

The CVL stopped operations in December 1997 as a result of destructions caused by war. More than twenty years later, the laboratory resumed operations in October 2019 after a massive renovation, installation of state-of-the-art equipment and capacity building by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) under the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) project. Thanks to this support, the country now has capacity to test for rabies and other priority zoonotic diseases and transboundary animal diseases such as brucellosis, Rift Valley fever (RVF) or highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).

The Ag. Director of Livestock and Veterinary Services Division in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Mr Mohamed Alpha Bah   described the achievement as a breakthrough for animal health in the country, especially because of the ability to test for rabies in-country. “For so long we have been shipping most samples abroad for laboratory confirmation and it would take longer for us to get results. Early detection is key in animal disease control, because the earlier we detect and confirm the disease, the quicker we can implement prevention and control measures to reduce the burden of the disease,” he explained. He further added that, “Ministries of Agriculture and Health experience high costs to prevent and control rabies e.g. post exposure prophylaxis for humans and dog vaccines.”

In response to the detection of rabies and being one of the priority zoonotic diseases in the country and recognizing its high burden, FAO and other partners have supported development and implementation of the National Strategy for the Elimination of Rabies and Enhancement of Dog Population Management. FAO also supported the development of the National Rabies Action Plan (NAP) and guidelines for implementing the strategy using the  One Healthapproach. The rabies strategy provides for a systematic reduction of the disease risk through sustained mass dog vaccinations, pre and post-exposure prophylaxis in humans and public education. This is in line withthe world’s biggest anti-rabies initiative the “Zero by 30: The Global Strategic Plan to Prevent Human Deaths from Dog-Transmitted Rabies by 2030” to achieve a world completely free of human dog-mediated rabies. Through FAO’s work with national laboratories, steady improvement in disease detection capability is being achieved in Sierra Leone and across Africa.

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For more information, please contact:

Germain Bobo

Country Team Leader

FAO Emergency Center for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) 

Sierra Leone

Email:[email protected]


Yanira Santana

Regional Communications and Outreach

Bureau FAO ECTAD Regional West and Central Africa

Email : [email protected]

Phone : +221 33 823 29 14


Uzman Unis Bah

Communication Specialist - FAO Sierra Leone

[email protected] |+23232111882