By Madelaine B. Miraflor
The Department of Agriculture (DA) has partnered with the United States Defense Threat Reduction Agency (US DTRA) for an expanded version of an existing program meant to improve the Philippine government’s veterinary diagnostic laboratories.
The move, according to DA, could help protect and keep the Philippines free from major animal diseases.
In a statement, DA said it plans to establish strong and functional animal disease diagnostic laboratories nationwide, a plan that came amid the unresolved African Swine Fever (ASF) cases in the country.
This move was formalized in a Department Order (DO) signed and issued by Agriculture Secretary William Dar.
The project — called Enhancement of the Biosafety and Biosecurity Capabilities at the Department of Agriculture (DA) Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories (BSS project) — is being implemented by DA in collaboration with the United States Defense Threat Reduction Agency (US DTRA).
Following the approval of US DTRA in June 2018, DA has expanded the coverage of the project to include the construction and equipment provision for National Anthrax Reference Laboratory in Tuguegarao City, extension of training; development of a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS); and development of a DA Integrated Laboratory Engineering Master Plan.
“Through the issued DO, we are supplementing provisions in the forms of modifications and additional components under the expanded coverage of the BSS project,” Dar said.
One of the modifications and additional components under the expanded BSS project includes the construction of and equipment provision for anthrax laboratory in Tuguegarao City.
Anthrax, with its infectious characteristics that can cause severe illness in both animals and humans and can be transmitted by contact with the bacteria’s spores in an infected animal, have been used as a biological warfare agent.
“In the Philippines, anthrax was found to be endemic in Cagayan Valley Region,” Dar said.
To enhance the diagnostic capability of the Regional Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (RADDL), an Anthrax Reference Laboratory is being proposed to be constructed in Tuguegarao City. The lab serves as the center for isolation of Bacillus anthracis and research on anthrax.
“The extended training, exercises, and workshops will complement DA’s rationalization efforts to improve and standardize biosafety and biosecurity practices and procedures in DA’s RADDLs,” Dar further said.
Training programs include epidemiology and field biosecurity training, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) hands-on training, anthrax testing algorithm and safe practices, among others.
Another component of the project is the development of LIMS that will facilitate the management of data within and exchange of information among ADDRL ad Animal Health Welfare Division (AHWD) of the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) and RADDLs of DA-Regional Field Offices (RFOs).