Foot-and-mouth disease: a new international reference mandate for ANSES

Through its Maisons-Alfort Laboratory for Animal Health, ANSES has just been appointed Reference Centre of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) for foot-and-mouth disease and vesicular diseases. This new mandate expands the reference activities of the Maisons-Alfort Laboratory for Animal Health regarding foot-and-mouth disease, particularly in the context of its reference mandates at a national, European and international level, and is recognition of ANSES's commitment to addressing major health issues.

Foot-and-mouth disease is an extremely contagious viral disease affecting livestock. It can have a significant impact on production and international trade in animals and foodstuffs of animal origin, as well as on food security and economic development, at both a local and global level. The disease has been eradicated in many developed countries but remains endemic in certain parts of Asia, and most of Africa and the Middle East.

One of the main reasons that the Maisons-Alfort Laboratory for Animal Health was founded in 1901 was to combat foot-and-mouth disease. Since then, it has been committed to tackling this disease at national, European and international levels and works actively with various international organisations (World Organisation for Animal Health [OIE], FAO, EuFMD). As the national reference laboratory for foot-and-mouth disease, in June 2015 it was appointed OIE Reference Laboratory, and then more recently European Union Reference Laboratory, with effect from 1 January 2019, in partnership with the Belgian Veterinary and Agrochemical Research Centre (CERVA).

For ANSES, its nomination as FAO Reference Centre is recognition of its international scientific reputation and its mobilisation to address major health issues. This appointment will strengthen its cooperation with the FAO and its participation in the fight against foot-and-mouth disease at the international level.

What does reference activity involve?

For some regulated or emerging pathogens (viruses, bacteria, parasites) or chemical contaminants of major importance, the health authorities need an effective surveillance and analysis system based on a network of reliable laboratories to conduct the official analyses.

For each regulated pathogen or contaminant requiring surveillance, the relevant health authorities appoint accredited laboratories for conducting analyses, as well as a "reference" laboratory at both the national level (NRL: National Reference Laboratory) and the European level (EURL: European Union Reference Laboratory). The reference laboratory ensures the reliability of the analyses carried out by all the accredited laboratories in the network it coordinates (departmental laboratories for the NRL, and NRLs of the different EU Member States for the EURL). It develops the analytical methods, transfers them to the accredited laboratories and ensures that the quality of the results is consistent throughout the territory. With its 11 laboratories spread out across France, ANSES holds over 90 national, European or international reference mandates (OIE, FAO or WHO) (PDF) (in French).