Innovation is key at Royal GD. We have therefore developed various innovation themes to put this on the map permanently. Molecular Epidemiology is an important theme in which we see a lot of possibilities. Remco Dijkman and Saskia Luttikholt work together with a broad team of specialists on this subject, and are pleased to explain to us exactly what they do.
Molecular Epidemiology actually covers a number of different professional fields. “The molecular part focuses on the genetic building blocks of for example viruses and bacteria (DNA and RNA),” R&D researcher Remco explains. “Epidemiology is the prevention, spread and monitoring of disease outbreaks and the identification of common denominators in outbreak patterns. Forexample, poultry that has been transported in the same trucks, or the presence of, or contact with many wild birds in a region. To prove this, you characterise the pathogen using a genome sequencing technique,” he continues. “This type of research can confirm whether the disease outbreak is caused by one and the same problematic strain.” Remco is convinced that source detection/outbreak tracking is but one of the many possibilities offered by Molecular Epidemiology. “We also use molecular epidemiological tools to distinguish live vaccines of field strains,” he explains. “This allows us to follow any changes that occur in the antibiotic resistance of strains, or in their virulence (pathogenic capacity).”
Meta-genomics: a weapon in the quest for the unknown pathogens
Remco and Saskia know for sure that the future of so-called ‘meta-genomics’ is a promising one. “It’s sometimes impossible to find what has caused an infectious disease using the generally available diagnostics,” Saskia explains. “You can then take acloser look using meta-genomics, by sequencing all the genetic material in the sample.” Remco adds: “That’s exactly how the Schmallenberg virus was discovered in 2011.” Saskia continues: “While sequencing technology is the way forward, it will never
replace ELISA or PCR. “For now, we mainly see it being applied
to the more complex cases which may be caused by a number of
Unique combination and future
It all comes together in the GD laboratory. “We have the lab results and information from the dissecting room literally at our fingertips. Plus we have vast in-house knowledge, thanks to our pathologists, vets and specialists. With all these forms of collaboration we offer something unique,” Remco is pleased to say.
He foresees a flourishing future for Molecular Epidemiology: “I hope this will become an important component of the GD arsenal. Not only in terms of research, but also in daily application. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our sequencing techniques can help combat important diseases such as PRRS, influenza, BVD and IBR?” he continues enthusiastically. A fine objective, with which Saskia wholeheartedly agrees. “Molecular Epidemiology can play
an important role in animal disease monitoring, the discovery of new diseases and the charting of epidemiological spread. It is anessential link in the further improvement of animal health.”