With regard to animal health, Sciensano provides scientific and technical support, not only to the authorities (the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain and the Federal Public Service Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment), but also to professional organisations and front-line laboratories.
The scope of our activities is wide and includes emerging and epizootic diseases (diseases affecting animals, for example foot and mouth disease or swine fever) and certain enzootic diseases (i.e. those present in our herds, for example infectious bovine rhinotracheitis) that pose a major socio-economic risk. On top of their economic impact, some of these diseases pose a potential threat to public health: so called zoonoses (i.e., diseases or infections that can be transmitted, directly or indirectly, from animals to humans or the other way round), which we monitor closely.
It is worth pointing out that these diseases all have a direct or indirect effect on public health, if only, for example, with regard to the use of antibiotics they necessitate. Thanks to antibiotics, healthcare in humans has greatly improved. In animals reared for consumption (farm animals, such as cows, sheep, chickens, etc.), the use of antibiotics has contributed to increasing the return on investment for producers. But we must remain vigilant because the misuse of antibiotics can cause an increase in bacterial resistance to antibiotics in animals and humans. They become ineffective to cure diseases.
As an expert in the field of animal health, Sciensano:
- conducts and evaluates regulated animal disease monitoring programmes;
- assesses the risk and prepares for potential crises by developing analytical methods and techniques;
- improves the diagnosis of animal diseases by developing, certifying and validating molecular, microbiological and/or serological testing;
- produces and provides front-line laboratories with reference reagents (positive-negative sera, stem collection, RNA-DNA, etc.);
- performs diagnostic reagent controls and inter-laboratory testing to certify the quality of tests in front line laboratories.
Some of these actions make it necessary to work in a confined environment to allow the disease to be reproduced in quarantine, which is made possible through the ultra modern infrastructure and efficient teams available to Sciensano. In the field of animal health, Sciensano is the National Reference Laboratory for all animal diseases, such as foot and mouth disease and vesicular diseases, the swine fever virus, bird flu and other bird and exotic viruses, and for highly pathogenic bacterial viruses (plague, anthrax, brucellosis, tuberculosis, tularemia).