The Laboratory for Animal Health is located in Maisons-Alfort on the campus of the Alfort National Veterinary School (ENVA), from which it originated. Founded in 1901, it was the world's first laboratory designed to control infectious and contagious animal diseases. It is still internationally renowned today and carries out critical missions for France and Europe in the field of animal health and public health. The Laboratory for Animal Health also has a site in Normandy devoted to equine diseases. It has 140 employees grouped into five main units and four contracted units (USC) that cover all spheres of animal health infectiology. It has close links with the ENVA campus in Maisons-Alfort and the site in Normandy, with which it shares premises and staff.
The Laboratory provides considerable scientific and technical support in two main areas:
- significant reference, expert appraisal and epidemiological surveillance activities,
- high-quality research, carried out in conjunction with other organisations and accredited by the French Ministry of Research.
The Laboratory for Animal Health focuses its work on four themes:
- management of major animal epidemics (foot and mouth disease, bluetongue, etc.),
- bacterial, viral and parasitic zoonoses,
- emerging multi-species infectious animal diseases, particularly vector-borne diseases and opportunistic fungal infections,
- persistent and/or emerging infections of major importance in the equine sector.
The Laboratory draws on its full range of expertise to assist health authorities in decision making:
- It develops tools to enable quicker and more reliable detection and characterisation of animal pathogens in domestic and wild species, as well as new typing methods.
- It analyses host-pathogen relations in order to introduce new animal disease prevention strategies (vaccines).
- It monitors the emergence of the animal epidemics it studies in order to prevent their spread, and analyses their causes. It therefore contributes to assessment of the related risks. In this regard, it is responsible for issuing alerts for "foot and mouth disease and similar vesicular diseases" and coordinates the Résumeq equine mortality surveillance network.
To fulfil its missions, the Laboratory for Animal Health has five main units:
- Bacterial zoonoses,
- Virology (ANSES-INRA-ENVA joint research unit),
- Molecular biology and fungal and parasitic immunology (ANSES-ENVA-INRA joint research unit),
- Pathophysiology and epidemiology of equine diseases (Normandy site).
and four contracted units (USCs): USC VECPAR (University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne), USC EPITOXO (University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne), USC DYNAMIC (University of Paris-Est-Créteil), USC EPITMAI (ENVA).
The Laboratory holds numerous national and European contracts and has seen a qualitative and quantitative increase in the number of its publications (111 Category A/A+ in 2017).
- Development of new diagnostic and prevention methods for major animal viruses (foot and mouth disease, bluetongue, equine viruses, etc.);
- Coordination of epidemiology networks (West Nile virus, other equine viruses, bluetongue virus);
- Analysis of the risk of transmission from animals to humans (West Nile virus, Bornavirus, coronavirus, picornavirus, hepatitis E virus, etc.);
- Analysis of the potential public health risks of animal viruses: virus/host interactions, interspecies transmissions;
- Generic approaches in vaccinology: development of new vectors associated with genes coding for major antigens of different economically important viruses;
- Development of molecular tools for monitoring tick infection by zoonotic arboviruses.
Parasitic Zoonoses: "Foodborne helminths and protozoans"
- Epidemiological studies aimed at better understanding circulation and prevalence among certain wild and domestic animal species (e.g. Toxoplasma, Alaria alata), determining the role of certain unusual species in the epidemiological cycle (e.g. dogs and Trichinella in Corsica) and better understanding the risks that could result for humans;
- Implementation of new tools for various animal species to enable screening and diagnosis of parasitic zoonotic agents transmitted through meat products, in particular Trichinella, Toxoplasma and Cryptosporidium;
- Development of cellular tools for assessing infectivity of zoonotic protists (Cryptosporidium);
- Implementation of new vaccine tools (e.g. Toxoplasma) or screening of therapeutic compounds (Cryptosporidium) in order to strengthen control of zoonotic parasites transmitted through meat products.
Ticks and vector-borne pathogens
Including Bartonella, Anaplasma, etc., vector-borne zoonotic viruses (e.g. tick-borne encephalitis virus):
- Development and validation of direct (molecular biology) or indirect (immunology) diagnostic tools and integration into an epidemiologically validated process for making health-related decisions (e.g. developing molecular screening tools for monitoring the emergence of tickborne pathogens [bacterial and viral], in collaboration with other ANSES units);
- Development of generic approaches for studying interactions between pathogens transmitted by arthropod vectors: identifying virulence factors using a mutant bank, establishment of tick breeding, experimental models of infection in mice;
- Development of alternative total sequencing methods in order to gain a better understanding of the bacterial species involved, intra-species relationships and the zoonotic potential of strains of animal origin (e.g. Anaplasma);
- Study of the interactions between vector-borne bacteria and their vertebrate and invertebrate hosts in order to shed light on the mechanisms involved in virulence and develop characterisation techniques for zoonotic strains and vaccines.
In particular Brucella sp., Chlamydia sp., Mycobacterium sp., Bacillus anthracis, Burkholderia sp.; vector-borne zoonotic bacteria such as Francisella tularensis:
- Development of tools for phenotypic or molecular differentiation of bacterial strains to enable more precise epidemiological monitoring of outbreaks and the establishment of links between animal outbreaks and human cases;
- Towards "One Health" approaches designed for studying interactions between pathogens, host species and the environment. Several projects are dedicated to wildlife surveillance and the role of different species in pathogen transmission. Others focus on the presence and persistence in the environment, particularly in water bodies, with the option of investigating pathogen survival in amoebae.
- Application of new high-throughput technologies to reference activities (in particular molecular typing of strains; design of chips for multi-pathogen detection or differential diagnosis) and research (phylogeographical approaches; studies of virulence genes or genes involved in survival; modelling work associated with transmission pathways). Next-generation sequencing (NGS) is the biotechnological revolution of recent years, and enables large quantities of genomes to be sequenced in record time and at a more affordable price.
Epidemiological studies in production livestock in order to validate diagnostic and/or screening tools, and in wildlife and/or vectors for health surveillance, identification of reservoir populations and/or victims of bacterial infections, working with other ANSES laboratories and other organisations;
- Application of modelling, decision support tools and biostatistics to different animal pathogen models (tuberculosis in farmed deer, bluetongue, trichinellosis, etc.).
- Health monitoring, risk assessment and analysis, emergency intervention systems applied specifically to monitoring vesicular-aphthous diseases, especially foot and mouth disease.
"Opportunistic and emerging fungal infections" (Aspergillus, Pneumocystis, etc.)
- Characterisation of the circulation of fungal agents, particularly in an ex vivo model.
- Analysis of fungal resistance to anti-fungal agents.
- Study of the relationship between humans and animals in the spread of opportunistic fungi.
Pathophysiology and epidemiology of equine diseases (Normandy site)
- Molecular characterisation and typing of isolates of Taylorella equigenitalis, the agent of contagious equine metritis, and Taylorella asinigenitalis, circulating in equine and asinine populations in France and Europe.
- Ecology study of the agent of contagious equine metritis within the equine genital tract microflora in order to refine detection and control methods.
- Studies on virulence and antimicrobial resistance in pathogenic bacteria of equine origin taken from the autopsy culture collection and epidemiological investigations.
- Development of new serological and molecular diagnostic methods for dourine and "equine trypanosomoses".
- Study of the molecular mechanisms underlying the different transmission methods of animal diseases due to parasites of the Trypanozoon sub-genus responsible for fatal diseases in domestic animals and humans.
- Coordination of the Résumeq equine mortality surveillance network.
- Structuring of epidemiological surveillance in the equine sector through a project to combine the use of demographic and health data on horses (Valdonequi).
- Study of the development of antimicrobial resistance in the main bacterial species responsible for abortion and stillbirth in Equidae.
- Molecular characterisation (NGS, WGS, etc.) of strains of equine infectious anaemia and equine viral arteritis found in France and Europe.
- Determination of whether the influenza D virus is circulating in the equine population.
- Improvement of serological and molecular diagnostic methods for equine infectious anaemia and equine viral arteritis.
- Study of host-pathogen interactions in order to better understand the mechanisms of persistence of the EVA and EIA viruses in their host: the horse.
- Identification of synthetic and/or natural compounds with antimicrobial properties in order to develop targeted treatments against viruses and bacteria infecting Equidae, as an alternative to antibiotic therapy.
18 national reference mandates:
In animal health and food safety
- Foot-and-mouth disease and related pathogens, emerging multi-species viral diseases (vesicular stomatitis and equine vesicular disease)
- African horse sickness
- West Nile and equine encephalitis
- Contagious equine metritis
- Equine infectious anaemia
- Equine viral arteritis
- Equine herpesviruses
- Brucellosis in ruminants and small ruminants
- Avian and ovine chlamydiosis
- Foodborne parasites except echinococcosis (shared with the Laboratory for Food Safety for the fish nematodes part)
- Mandate shared with the Laboratory for Food Safety: Foodborne viruses
Three European Union Reference Laboratories
- Equine diseases
- Foot-and-mouth disease and similar vesicular diseases (in partnership with Sciensano[JG1] , Belgium)
Two FAO Collaborating Centres
- Foot-and-mouth disease
Seven OIE Reference Laboratories
- Foot-and-mouth disease
- Epizootic Haemorrhagic Disease (EHDV)
- Avian chlamydiosis
- Chlamydiosis of small ruminants
One OIE Collaborating Centre
- Foodborne zoonotic parasites
NRC Certified Laboratory
- Hepatitis E, foodborne protists
Public partners in France
ANSES laboratories, OIE, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (Directorate General for Food), French Public Health Agency (InVS), INRA, CIRAD, CRVOI, French Space Agency (CNES), French national veterinary schools, Institut Pasteur in Paris, French Certification Association for Animal Health (ACERSA), Centaure scientific interest grouping (GIS) for equine health, Federation of Health Protection Associations (FNGDS), French Horse and Riding Institute (IFCE), National Hunting and Wildlife Agency (ONCFS), Begin Joint Forces Hospital, Army Health Services Research Centre, Central Laboratory of the Police Prefecture, University of Paris-Sud-Orsay, University of Caen-Normandy, University of Paris Est, University of Paris VI, ABIES doctoral school, Normandy Regional Council, Île-de-France Regional Council, etc.
The Laboratory coordinates the DIM1HEALTH project for the Ile-de-France region (https://www.dim1health.com/en/)
Private partners in France
BI, SEPPIC, ID-VET, Institut Pourquier, Bio-Rad, Microvision, Pfizer, Jansen-Cilag, etc.
Lanzhou Agricultural University (China), Jilin University (China), Guangxi University (China), Centre for Research and Advanced Studies of the National Polytechnical Institute (CINVESTAV Mexico), Agrifood Research and Technology Centre of Aragon (CITA Spain), SCIENSANO Centre for Veterinary and Agrochemical Study and Research (Belgium), Friedrich Loeffler Institute (Germany), National Agricultural Technology Institute (Argentina), Scientific Veterinary Institute (Serbia), Northern Arizona University (Flagstaff, USA), University of California Davis (USA), University of Zagreb (Croatia), University of Kentucky (USA), Azabu University (Japan), Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp (Belgium), all the European National Reference Laboratories, the FAO's European Commission for the Control of Foot and Mouth Disease (EuFMD) in Rome, and a large number of European research institutes (all European Union countries are represented).