In 2009 the Irish Equine Centre was designated an OIE reference laboratory for equine influenza and the Head of the Centre’s Virology Unit, Professor Ann Cullinane was designated an OIE expert in this field. The OIE is the veterinary equivalent of the World Health Organisation (WHO). The IEC is the only OIE Reference Laboratory in Ireland and one of just two for equine influenza in the world (the other is in Kentucky, USA).
Since 2009 the Irish Equine Centre has provided assistance relating to the diagnosis and control of equine influenza to laboratories and veterinarians in Europe, South Africa, the Middle East, North and South America and Asia. Dr Marie Garvey in the Virology Unit organises inter-laboratory comparisons and proficiency tests and the supply of reference standards to other laboratories.
Ann Cullinane is Chair of the OIE Expert Surveillance Panel (ESP) for equine influenza. This panel which consists of OIE and World Health Organisation (WHO) experts meets annually at OIE headquarters in Paris to review data in relation to equine influenza outbreaks all over the world and to make recommendations on the need to update equine influenza vaccines. These recommendations are published in the OIE Bulletin and on the OIE website: OIE Website
It is essential for the global control of equine influenza that the ESP receives information relating to disease outbreaks and the emergence of antigenic and genetic variants from as wide a geographic area as possible.
In 2015 the expertise of our Virology Unit was further recognised when the laboratory was also designated an OIE Reference Laboratory for equine rhinopneumonitis (equine herpesvirus or EHV-1). Similar to equine influenza, the IEC is one of two laboratories in the world with this status for EHV-1. EHV-1 is the most pathogenic virus endemic in the Irish horse population and is a major cause of both sporadic and multiple abortions, paralysis and respiratory disease that often results in severe financial loss to the equine industry.