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Institute for Animal Health celebrates its 50th anniversary as the World Reference Laboratory for foot-and-mouth disease

The Royal Society is the venue for a celebration of the Institute for Animal Health’s (IAH) Pirbright Laboratory as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation Reference Laboratory for foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).

The one-day symposium, on Friday 9th May, features speakers from Belgium, Germany, Italy, South Africa, and Spain in addition to the universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh and Oxford, and IAH.

The theme of the symposium is tracking the emergence and global spread of FMD. The significance of the disease has been exacerbated by the globalisation of trade, the rapid growth and intensification of livestock keeping (especially in countries where FMD is chronic), and the threat of bioterrorist attacks.

The first scientific talk will be given by Nick Knowles of IAH, who compares the gene sequences of new isolates of the virus with his ever-expanding database of FMD sequences from around the globe. In this way he can track FMD viruses as they spread not only within countries but also across national boundaries, indeed continents.

“IAH Pirbright’s contribution to the control of FMD in some developing countries, where the disease is continually present, is part philanthropy, part enlightened self-interest on the part of the UK,” said Dr David Paton, Head of the FMD Reference Laboratory. “Diminishing FMD overseas reduces the chances of it being imported into the UK and neighbouring European countries.”


For more information contact Dr Dave Cavanagh at the Institute for Animal Health’s press office: mobile 07789 941568 (message can be recorded); office 01635 577241 (message can be recorded);


You can see a record of the activities of the FMD World Reference Laboratory, produced by the Institute for Animal Health, at

More about FMD can be seen at the website of the FMD/Classical Swine Fever Coordination Action, hosted by the Institute for Animal Health; This is an EU-funded project for better coordination and collaboration amongst national and international animal health organisations in respect of these two devastating diseases.

Staff of the FMD World Reference Laboratory and other Reference Laboratories in IAH also providing training for veterinarians from the UK and around the world:

The Institute for Animal Health is dedicated to the study of infectious diseases in farm animals. It has two campuses: Pirbright Laboratory (Pirbright, near Guildford, Surrey) and Compton Laboratory (Compton, near Newbury, Berkshire).

. The work of the many Reference Laboratories in the Institute (listed below) is described at

IAH is one of five research institutes sponsored by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)

IAH Pirbright Laboratory provides nine world and regional laboratories (Reference Laboratories) for major diseases of farm animals, on behalf of:

World Reference Laboratory of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)

Regional Reference Laboratory of the OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health

Community Reference Laboratory of the EU

Each reference laboratory specialises in one type of virus.  A reference laboratory maintains a collection of viruses and related reagents, and provides a diagnostic service.

Bluetongue: OIE, EU

African swine fever: OIE

African horse sickness: OIE, EU

Foot-and-mouth disease: FAO, OIE, EU

Swine vesicular disease: OIE, EU

Lumpy skin disease: OIE

Sheep and goat pox: IE

Peste de petits ruminants: FAO, OIE

Rinderpest: FAO, EU

Prof. David Cavanagh BSc, PhD, DSc

Head of Corporate Affairs and Communication

Institute for Animal Health


























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