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QIAGEN and Institute for Animal Health Enter Partnership in Bluetongue Testing
Worldwide license agreement expands the Company's veterinary assay portfolio and aims to contain future outbreaks of the devastating viral disease
Bluetongue is caused by the bluetongue virus (BTV). It mainly afflicts cattle and sheep which exhibit the highest morbidity and mortality rates reaching up to 70 percent. Since 1998, the disease has been rapidly spreading throughout Europe with outbreaks in most countries including the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Greece, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany and France. In 2008 alone, 16 outbreaks of the disease have been registered across Europe. Currently authorities in the Netherlands and several other countries in Europe are struggling to contain outbreaks caused by a BTV type 8, previously only found in Central and South America, and Africa. The IAH estimates the potential economic impact of a major bluetongue outbreak to exceed ¤ 600 million in the U.K. alone - resulting from increased mortality rates, losses in milk production, export and animal movement restrictions. Containment and therefore early detection tools are key to combat this disease.
The new cador BTV RT-PCR Kit allows fast and highly sensitive detection of all 24 known strains of the bluetongue virus; including BTV-6 which has caused the latest outbreak of the disease in the Netherlands, and BTV-1, which has spread from North Africa, up to the north coast of France, threatening the UK. Because many symptoms of bluetongue are not specific to the disease, there is a growing demand for reliable and fast laboratory tests which might help to contain future outbreaks.
"The emergence and dissemination of new BTV strains currently observed in Europe pose a serious threat to the agricultural industry. The new cador BTV RT-PCR can help to contain future outbreaks of the disease, and thereby minimize the risk of major economic damage", explains Simone Gauch, Global Marketing Director Applied Testing at QIAGEN. "A major advantage of the test is that it detects all known serotypes of the virus as well as variants from different parts of the world. The test can be used to test vaccinated animals, which are usually only protected against the limited number of BTV types addressed by the vaccine, and thus animals still need to be screened as soon as they exhibit any symptoms. This has been impossible using traditional diagnostic methods, because the antibodies present in vaccinated animals are too similar to antigens produced during a new infection. Molecular testing solutions such as the cador BTV RT-PCR assay eliminate this loophole."
"The combination of IAH know-how in bluetongue testing with QIAGEN's cutting-edge sample preparation and assay technologies creates a new powerful diagnostic tool to quickly identify infected animals and thus help to contain bluetongue outbreaks that are likely to occur in the future", said Prof. Peter Mertens, Head of the Arbovirus Research Group at the IAH. "Given QIAGEN's track record in molecular testing and its global reach, the company was a partner of choice to bring this technology to the international markets in order to fight this costly disease."
QIAGEN's veterinary testing business is organized as part of QIAGEN's Applied Testing Section which also includes rapidly growing application areas such as forensics, biodefense, quality control and others. In 2006, the company has entered into a licensing agreement with the British Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA), thereby allowing QIAGEN to enter the fast growing market for veterinary tests with validated assays. Today, QIAGEN's veterinary portfolio encompasses a broad range of sample and assay technologies, including tests for Avian Flu, Bovine Viral Diarrhea (BVDV) and Taylorella equigenitalis.
Bluetongue is a hemorrhagic viral disease affecting sheep, cattle and other ruminants. The disease spreads mainly via midges, which serve as carrier for the currently 24 known strains of the bluetongue virus. Following an incubation period of 5 to 20 days, infected animals can exhibit symptoms such as fever, excessive loss of weight and swelling of the muzzle, eyelids and ears. The mucosal surfaces of the mouth become inflamed and ulcerated. The swellings can result in insufficient oxygen supply to the affected tissues; the tongue thereby develops a characteristic blue or purple color that gives the disease its name. The mortality rate depends on many factors including the animal's breed, age, its health status and the strain of the virus. There is no treatment for bluetongue. Since 1998 the distribution of BTV has changed significantly with multiple serotypes of the virus spreading across Europe and into the South-eastern United States. These events have been linked to climate change and its effect on the insects (biting midges) involved in the transmission of these viruses.
The IAH delivers high quality fundamental, strategic and applied science focused on infectious diseases of farm animals. This knowledge is used to advance veterinary science, and to enhance the sustainability of livestock farming. In addition to research output the IAH provides diagnostic services for a number of diseases and give expert advice to the UK government and international agencies. IAH is the diagnostic laboratory for bluetongue in the UK, and is the Reference Laboratory for bluetongue for the EU and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). More information can be found at http://www.iah.ac.uk/.
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