FAO in Viet Nam

Using innovative technology for quicker results and quicker response


Swiftly locating and identifying viruses at the source is the first step for a quick and smart response towards a disease outbreak. With the number of animal and human cases of influenza A (H7N9) outbreak in China drastically increasing, it is critical for Viet Nam to quickly monitor and detect any unusual virus emergence to prevent the intrusion of this virus and minimize its impacts.

A novel technology called Pen-side PCR has become available to enable this task. It is a surveillance method to detect viruses close to sampling sites like markets or district veterinary stations with a hand-held, battery-operated device. With this system, animal health experts will be able to detect and identify the virus within 2 hours after sampling, whereas the traditional real-time PCR would take in average of 2.5 days to get the result due to transportation reasons.

With the financial support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), FAO Viet Nam’s Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD), in collaboration with the Department of Animal Health of Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (DAH-MARD), rolled out trainings on the use of Pen-side PCR in 5 provinces (Quang Ninh, Lang Son, Cao Bang, Lao Cai and Ha Noi Provinces) bordering with China to introduce this new method and effectively safeguard Viet Nam from the potential intrusion of influenza A (H7N9) H7N9 virus.

The Laboratory Expert of FAO ECTAD Viet Nam provided hands-on experience to collect samples and perform the test in live bird markets to trainees from the Frontier Veterinary Quarantine Station (FVAS) and Sub-Department of Animal Health (SDAH) in respected provinces, who are the key responders in the whole surveillance process in Northern Viet Nam. The training was arranged in three main steps; 1) The Laboratory Expert first demonstrated the Pen-side PCR procedure from sampling, testing, recording and reporting test results 2) Trainees repeated the whole process under the lab expert’s supervision. 3) Finally, trainees completed the pen-side PCR testing by themselves.

“Participants from the training showed keen interest throughout the training. By the end of the training, they were all confident in testing with the Pen-side PCR system. Pen-side PCR method is affordable, portable and easy to use, meaning it can carry out tests in many different environments while still maintaining an equivalent level of sensitivity with a qPCR in a laboratory. These features make Pen-side PCR very practical and professional to use.” said Ken Inui, the Laboratory Expert of FAO ECTAD Viet Nam.

“Due to its practicality, there is a big potential for Pen-side PCR to play an important role in future avian influenza surveillance activities. Furthermore, it could also be applied in other animal diseases such as Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) or Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS). Through close collaboration with DAH, we will continue to pilot Pen-side PCR and monitor its effectivity and sustainability. We look forward how this new, yet simple, technology can bring a big change in future surveillance activities in Viet Nam.” said Pawin Padungtod, the Senior Technical Coordinator of FAO ECTAD Viet Nam.