Sciensano & Newcastle disease

Last updated on 19-10-2018 by Thibault Degiuli

Sciensano hosts the national reference laboratory (NRL) for the Newcastle disease virus (ND). In the context of this highly contagious virus, which can cause lethal epidemics in birds, we develop tools to diagnose the disease quickly and effectively. We also characterize the different viral strains to improve the control of the disease through vaccination.

Diagnosis | isolate the virus to determine its pathogenicity

The symptoms of ND are very similar to those of other bird diseases. In order to better identify the virus, Sciensano develops analyzes to quickly confirm suspicious cases and be able to take isolation measures as quickly as possible.

To better diagnose ND, Sciensano manages the techniques of:

  • real-time RT-PCR molecular diagnostics (polymerase chain reaction test)
  • virus isolation by inoculation with embryonated chicken eggs
  • characterization of virus antigens by hemagglutination inhibition test (binding of specific antibodies to antigens present on the surface of red blood cells)
  • sequencing of the F gene splice site and molecular phylogeny (characterization of viral strains sequences to study variability, kinship, etc.)
  • serological diagnosis by hemagglutination inhibition test.

Expertise | guarantee our role as NRL for the diagnosis and management of this disease

As a reference laboratory for Belgium and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Sciensano develops its expertise in virology, immunology, epidemiology and other means to fight against ND.
By mastering the diagnosis of Newcastle disease we can support animal disease control programs to minimize the risk of contamination.

Research | improve vaccination against the disease

Given the limitations of current vaccines, Sciensano focuses on the characterization of immune responses generated by current vaccines and by vaccines that are in development. Our laboratory also studies vaccination strategies to improve the induction of protection against the infection and to limit the transmission of the virus.

In this context, we investigate:

  • the optimization and validation of ND molecular diagnostics using real-time RT-PCR (polymerase chain reaction diagnostics test), including automation
  • the improvement of sequencing protocols to, among other things, obtain information about the relationship between different strains of viruses
  • evaluation of the immunity and protection induced by commercial vaccines against ND and by vaccines under development
  • the effectiveness of vaccination against ND.

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