The importing of animal models to APCF is the life blood of biological research at HKUST, and therefore APCF is committed to the smooth and bio-secure importing of animal models as required by Principle Investigators.
Yet this very same life blood is also fraught with risks that could result in biological research at HKUST haemorrhaging to the point of hypovolaemic shock and moribundity if an infectious agent were to breach the Specific Pathogen Free (SPF) barrier APCF has established around the vivarium.
Therefore to improve bio-security and to strengthen APCF’s SPF barrier, APCF has decided all imports of animal will be tested for the 10 most prevalent agents likely to infect a vivarium.*
Instead of having approved and non-approved suppliers of animals, APCF will assess the supplier as a high-risk or low-risk depending on an assessment of its Health Monitoring and Disease Surveillance Programmes.
Furthermore, depending on the number of animals imported the sampling will be either all individuals of the shipment or a randomly selected & statistically significant cohort from the shipment.
Sampling will be performed using a PCR-based quarantine sampling program directly testing the incoming animals by survival sampling.
Charles River Laboratories (CRL) in a personal communication with APCF stated “we have never had an instance of an agent being ‘missed’ using this PCR-based quarantine program which was then found later”.
A study by Henderson KS, Perkins CL, Havens RB, Kelly MJ, Francis BC, Dole VS, & Shek WR (2013) Efficacy of Direct Detection of Pathogens in Naturally Infected Mice by Using a High-Density PCR Array JAALAS, Vol 52, No 6, Pages 763–772 demonstrated that many of the pathogens that were detected in the pet shop animals using survival sampling did not transfer, or transferred poorly, to dirty-bedding sentinels.
Therefore we plan to use PCR-based quarantine sample types for the quarantine testing of all imported animals. Quarantine testing confirms the validity of the health monitoring data provided by the exporting facility. This means that users can have confidence in the accuracy of the exporting facility’s data and that the animals have not become exposed to excluded agents during shipping.
For animals from sources considered ‘low risk’ to the health of APCF’s vivarium because the exporting facility’s health surveillance programme is considered robust, the animals will be subjected only to the PCR-based quarantine sampling within 7 days of arrival. However for exporting facilities that are considered ‘high-risk’ because APCF has concerns about their health surveillance programmes or APCF has concerns that the integrity of the shipping box was compromised during transit then the ‘high-risk’ animals will be subjected to the PCR-based quarantine sampling within 7 days of arrival and then survival serology testing for a more comprehensive panel of agents in a second round of sampling some four weeks after arrival.
Although no test system is 100% guaranteed, the combination of these two methods is the best option for animals considered ‘high-risk’ as it provides greater confidence that the animals have never been exposed to the excluded agents.
PCR-based quarantine testing has other advantages besides increasing the bio-security of the APCF vivarium. It allows the APCF to shorten the quarantine period of most (i.e. ‘low risk’) imported animals to only 1-2 weeks, rather than waiting 3 to 4 months for the the detection of excluded agent particulates which need to migrate to the cage filter material, if using exhaust air dust (EAD) PCR surveillance or sero-conversion of sentinels if using dirty-bedding surveillance.
APCF believes that this new program will best protect the health of the animal models in the APCF vivarium and best protect the research interests of UST’s Principle Investigators.