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Reference activities of the Laboratory for Animal Health

The Laboratory for Animal Health holds 35 national, European and international reference mandates. Each reference laboratory carries out regulatory testing (reference), surveillance and expert appraisal missions on the animal diseases covered by its mandate. It also performs research assignments to improve scientific knowledge in its fields of competence.

National reference laboratories

The national reference laboratories (NRLs) carry out State reference activities: training in diagnostic tools, organisation of inter-laboratory proficiency tests, scientific and technical support for the network's laboratories, production, validation and supply of biological components and reagents, analytical services and confirmation of cases under COFRAC accreditation. They are also responsible for characterising the pathogens causing the animal diseases covered by their mandates. The laboratory has 20 national reference mandates. 

Foot-and-mouth disease is a viral animal infection that is not transmissible to humans. It is highly contagious among all cloven-hoofed animals, whether domesticated species such as cattle, sheep, goats and pigs, or wild species such as deer, antelopes and llamas. Although they have been aware of it for a long time, it remains a major concern to livestock farmers and health authorities. It can have a huge socio-economic impact, particularly in the agricultural sector.

This is a contagious disease of swine caused by a virus of the Picornaviridae family. It is one of the vesicular ("blistering") conditions affecting pigs and is a notifiable disease.

Bluetongue is a viral disease mostly affecting sheep, although it can also infect cattle, goats and wild ruminants. The virus responsible for bluetongue is an orbivirus belonging to the family Reoviridae. There are 27 main types of this virus – called serotypes – and its pathogenicity varies considerably from one strain to another. It is an arboviral disease, transmitted from one infected animal to another by the bite of a midge of the genus Culicoides.

African horse sickness is a viral infection of Equidae that is not directly contagious but is transmitted by insects of the genus Culicoides. Survival of these live vectors and persistence of the disease are promoted by mild climates without winter frost. This disease is not a zoonosis.

West Nile fever is a viral disease that affects certain birds and mammals, including horses and humans. It can be fatal or leave nerve damage after recovery.

Equine encephalitis is caused by viruses of the families Flaviviridae (for Japanese equine encephalitis) and Togavirivae (for the others). These viruses are of major importance to public health worldwide, and their spread is part of a broader picture of numerous vector-borne diseases increasingly affecting animal and human populations.

Contagious equine metritis is a sexually transmitted disease of Equidae caused by the bacterium Taylorella equigenitalis. The NRL is carrying out research simultaneously on improving bacteriological diagnosis, characterising T. asinigenitalis (another species of the same genus), and studying the causes of the bacterium's persistence in the genital tract and of treatment failures (involvement of the genital microbiota, host/pathogen interaction, etc.).

Equine infectious anaemia (EIA) is a serious viral disease for which there is no treatment. The causal virus belongs to the Retroviridae family (same family as the AIDS virus). EIA is a state-regulated disease classified as a category 1 health hazard, with regulations requiring infected horses to be euthanised. The NRL studies virus-host cell interactions that may influence the establishment of viral persistence and enable potential therapeutic targets to be identified.

Equine viral arteritis (EVA) is a respiratory and reproductive disease caused by a virus. It is a contagious disease with serious consequences, such as abortions, death of young foals and sexual incapacity in some stallions. EVA is a state-regulated disease classified as a category 2 health hazard. The NRL studies virus-host cell interactions that may influence the establishment of viral persistence.

There are numerous herpesviruses in Equidae, all are highly contagious. Horses and donkeys can be infected with a wide variety of herpesviruses, but the most common are types 1 and 4. Preventive treatment is available in the form of a vaccine. The NRL's work on this disease consists in providing scientific and technical support to the various laboratories, veterinarians and breeders who may be confronted with these viruses. The NRL carries out work to characterise the equine herpesvirus strains circulating in France and the European Union, and studies virus-host cell interactions that may influence the establishment of viral persistence and the reactivation of viral latency.

Dourine is a sexually transmitted disease of Equidae, caused by the parasite Trypanosoma equiperdum. In addition to its State missions, the NRL conducts research on the development of diagnostic tools based on innovative technologies, such as the detection of secreted small RNA or the detection of specific antibodies using an enzyme immunoassay method on fluorescent beads, and on the genetic and physiological characterisation of the infectious agents responsible for the different animal trypanosomoses: dourine, surra and nagana.

Brucellosis is an infectious and contagious disease in susceptible animals. This zoonosis is caused by bacteria of the genus Brucella, and can affect most species of domestic or wild mammals, especially ruminants. The disease, which seems to have been identified as early as Antiquity, has had various names depending on the country, the period or the animal species concerned: Malta fever, undulant fever (in humans), Mediterranean fever, Bangs disease, epizootic bovine abortion, etc.

Bovine tuberculosis is an infectious disease transmissible to humans (zoonosis) that is mainly caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium bovis. This bacterium can infect several domestic and wild species, primarily cattle and deer but also wild boar, badgers and foxes. The infection is often latent and generally slowly progressing in cattle, with clinical symptoms only appearing at a late stage. The indirect losses caused by this disease have a major economic impact on the sector (inability to sell live animals, raw milk, semen, etc.).

Equine glanders is an infectious disease that was eradicated from Europe, and France in particular, several decades ago. The pathogen responsible for glanders is Burkholderia mallei. However, this zoonosis is present in South America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, with epidemics emerging in several countries (Brazil, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon and Syria). Equidae imported into Europe are systematically screened. The NRL carries out confirmatory analyses of suspicions sent by official laboratories during import controls of horses.

Tularaemia is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. This bacterium is capable of infecting numerous animal species, including lagomorphs (hares, wild rabbits), swine, domestic and wild carnivores, certain bird species, wild rodents (field mice, voles, muskrats, coypu, etc.) and aquatic animals such as crustaceans.

Avian chlamydia is a disease caused by a parasitic bacterium called Chlamydia psittaci that affects about 500 species of domestic, farmed and wild birds. This pathogen is transmissible to humans and can cause an acute form of pneumonia that can be fatal in vulnerable people if not diagnosed and treated in time. People in direct contact with birds, such as farm workers, slaughterhouse workers and veterinarians, are most at risk. In ruminants, chlamydial abortion is also a concern because of the economic consequences of C. abortus infection in ruminant farms, where up to 70% of the animals in the same age group may abort.

Anthrax is an infectious and contagious zoonosis. It is caused by a bacterium called Bacillus anthracis and affects many mammalian species, mainly herbivores (cattle, sheep, goats and horses). Its importance lies in the rapid and sudden mortality that occurs in affected herds, its ability to persist and re-emerge from earlier outbreaks, and the possibility of transmission to humans through infected animals or their products.

The NRL for Foodborne parasites covers a relatively broad spectrum of foodborne zoonotic parasites: nematodes, trematodes, Cestoda tapeworms and protists. The NRL's activities focus on two families of nematodes (Trichinellidae and Anisakidae), one trematode (Alaria alata), one Cestoda tapeworm (Cysticercus) and three protists (Toxoplasma gondii, Giardia duodenalis and Cryptosporidium sp.). All these parasites are class 2 zoonotic agents. Of these zoonotic parasites, the genus Trichinella is classified as a category 2 health hazard.

> Analysis request form for downloading: Case history/Sample tracking (Word)


Two viruses are involved here: the hepatitis E virus and the tick-borne encephalitis virus, which can be transmitted through food.

European Union Reference Laboratories (EURLs)

ANSES has been the European Union Reference Laboratory (EURL) for animal brucellosis since 2016. The EURL's activities are carried out by the Brucella team of the Bacterial Zoonoses Unit. The EURL coordinates a network made up of national reference laboratories for animal brucellosis in the 26 EU Member States, official laboratories in the five EU candidate countries and laboratories in third countries (South-East Europe, WOAH laboratories). It monitors reagents (antigen batches, kits for inter-laboratory proficiency tests (ILPTs)) used in Europe for detecting animal brucellosis and standardises the methods used by the network's laboratories. It organises an annual ILPT.

The EURL also develops and validates diagnostic methods, provides reference materials, and organises technical and theoretical training for network members. It provides scientific and technical assistance to Member States (confirmation of doubtful results, identification of strains) and responds to requests from the European Commission and Member States regarding animal health measures. It works regularly with the European Food Safety Authority (annual data for the zoonoses report) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), and participates in international expert appraisals on brucellosis.

Find out more on the website of the EURL for Brucellosis

ANSES has been the European Union Reference Laboratory (EURL) for equine diseases since 2008. This EURL is located at the Laboratory for Animal Health, on the Maisons-Alfort and Normandy sites. The diseases it covers are West Nile fever and other exotic types of encephalitis (Eastern, Western and Venezuelan equine encephalitis), viral arteritis, infectious anaemia, glanders, contagious metritis, dourine and surra.

The EURL oversees the EU's 25 national reference laboratories (NRLs) for equine diseases. Its main missions are the development, improvement and harmonisation of diagnostic tools for equine diseases, as well as technical and scientific assistance to the different NRLs in the network.

Find out more on the website of the EURL for Equine diseases

The European Union Reference Laboratory (EURL) for foot-and-mouth disease is run jointly by ANSES and Sciensano in Belgium. The EURL's work is carried out by the BioPic team of the Virology UMR. The EURL coordinates a network made up of NRLs in the 26 Member States, official laboratories in the five EU candidate countries and laboratories from seven countries in South-East Europe. It organises an annual inter-laboratory proficiency test (ILPT) to monitor the performance of the network's laboratories, develops and validates diagnostic methods, provides reference materials and organises technical training. The EURL provides scientific and technical assistance to the European Commission and the Member States, and works regularly with the European Commission for the Control of Foot-and-mouth Disease (EuFMD), WOAH and the FAO. It thus participates in international expert appraisal activities on foot-and-mouth disease, as well as in the organisation of theoretical and technical training courses in European laboratories and in neighbouring countries of the European Union, after assessing each partner laboratory's specific needs. It shares and disseminates information on its mandate through the organisation of an annual scientific seminar.

More informatio on the website of the EURL for foot-and-mouth disease

International reference laboratories

The laboratory holds two FAO Collaborating Centre mandates:

  • Brucellosis
  • Foot-and-mouth disease

The Laboratory for Animal Health holds nine WOAH mandates:

  • Brucellosis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Foot-and-mouth disease
  • Epizootic haemorrhagic disease
  • Avian chlamydia
  • Chlamydia of small ruminants
  • Glanders
  • Dourine
  • Contagious equine metritis

The laboratory is a WOAH Collaborating Centre for foodborne zoonotic parasites.


The laboratory has been accredited by COFRAC according to the NF EN ISO/CEI 17025 standard under the numbers 1-2246 (Maisons-Alfort) and 1-6764 (Normandy) for tests.

The accreditation scope is available on the COFRAC website.