Archived News

Diagnostic Teams Provide State-of-the-Art Analysis

October 20, 2016

The school’s extensive programs include clinical laboratory and diagnostic teams who provide advanced testing and analysis for patient care, public health and infectious disease control. This expertise is crucial in diagnosing an ailment, a public health disease or rapid testing of potential patients to determine the correct course of treatment.

•    Patient Care: Regional/National Resource – The veterinary hospital’s labs are equipped to perform and interpret an extensive and diverse array of laboratory offerings. Beyond testing samples from hospitalized patients, these labs serve as a regional and national resource, providing diagnostic services to referral partners throughout California and beyond. The labs, guided by board-certified faculty specialists, are staffed with experienced technicians who hold a number of advanced degrees (MS, MD, PhD), and many are licensed Clinical Laboratory Scientists. This diverse complement of labs includes hematology/cytology, chemistry, microbiology, immunology/virology, parasitology, transfusion medicine, regenerative medicine, and clinical pathology. The state-of-the-art equipment is intended for high-throughput testing and rapid generation of results – the same as those used in human medicine. Lab staff analyze hundreds of dog, cat, horse and livestock samples on any given day, as well as unique tests such as a cytology specimen from an elephant, a chemistry sample from an exotic bird, or a microbiology submission from a dolphin.

•    Public Health: Regional/National Resource – Behind the scenes of the California Animal Health and Food Safety (CAHFS) Laboratory System, scientists are helping to protect animal health, public health and the food supply by rapidly detecting and responding to catastrophic, foreign and emerging livestock and poultry diseases. CAHFS routinely tests more than 500,000 samples each year. Rapid identification helps limit an infectious animal disease that could have devastating effects on both animals and humans. For example, in January 2015, Dr. Beate Crossley and her team tested 37,934 samples for avian influenza. Highly pathogenic avian influenza was quickly identified twice in affected commercial poultry flocks in California. Each time, CDFA and USDA were alerted and the disease was quickly contained. While this strain of avian influenza is not known to be a threat to public health, some strains can be transmitted to people, highlighting CAHFS’ important role in regularly monitoring these viruses in animals. Outbreaks like avian influenza demonstrate the complexity of quickly diagnosing and controlling fast-moving viral diseases. Viruses can mutate rapidly to form new strains requiring constant development of new diagnostic tools. As novel diseases emerge, innovations in genetic diagnostic testing help CAHFS differentiate between the wide spectrum of viruses which must be constantly monitored for changes that could affect animals and humans.

•   Health Crisis: Regional/International Resource – While rapid diagnostic testing is used to determine patient care and identify animal and food-borne diseases, it is also essential in the control and eradication of infectious diseases that affect humans. In 2014, two veterinary scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—both of whom received their Ph.D. and DVM degrees from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine—worked on the Ebola frontline. Serving in the field, they battled the largest Ebola outbreak since the deadly virus was identified in 1976. Their CDC Ebola Field-Laboratory (located at an Ebola Treatment Unit in Kenema, Sierra Leone) supported the international response to this unprecedented outbreak in partnership with the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization and other international collaborators. The lab served as a regional reference facility to provide rapid Ebola testing, demonstrating how veterinarians are an integral link in public health and disease outbreak control.

Diagnostic testing is a critical component of animal and human health care. The school’s veterinary hospital, diagnostic laboratories and advanced training programs are all important components to the overall resources that UC Davis provides to treat patients, maintain a healthy food supply and limit disease outbreaks. With plans for a new Veterinary Medical Center, we will continue to foster innovation, discovery and healing to address societal needs long into the 21st century.