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The Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory was recently accepted into the Veterinary Laboratory Investigation & Response Network.

TVMDL joins veterinary lab investigation network

Network assists FDA with large-scale investigations of CVM-regulated products, such as animal feed and drugs.

The Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL) is the newest member of the Veterinary Laboratory Investigation & Response Network (Vet-LIRN), according to an announcement from Texas A&M AgriLife Research.

Vet-LIRN is an international network of veterinary diagnostic laboratories developed to assist the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) with large-scale investigations of CVM-regulated products, such as animal feed and drugs, the announcement said.

Vet-LIRN’s dedication to investigation and response falls in line with several services TVMDL offers at its locations in College Station and Amarillo, Texas.

“The focus of Vet-LIRN is surveillance for problems in animal feeds and animal drugs,” said Dr. Bruce Akey, TVMDL director in College Station. “These are a small subset of the larger surveillance effort TVMDL carries on every day — an effort that relies on the comprehensive subject matter expertise and capabilities of the agency.”

In addition to performing routine tests specific to the needs of Vet-LIRN, TVMDL offers the network an additional level of expertise and testing capability, the anouncement said.

“TVMDL brings its extensive subject matter expertise and physical capabilities in toxicology, pathology and microbiology, along with one of the largest caseload volumes in the nation,” Akey said. “TVMDL serves as a reference center for other state laboratories for some relevant tests. Therefore, its addition to the Vet-LIRN means surveillance increases not just for one state but many.”

AgriLife Research said Vet-LIRN was partly established as a response to the 2007 pet food recall due to melamine contamination. During this event, FDA recognized the need for rapid communication with veterinary diagnostic laboratories and the capacity to test large volumes of animal-related samples suspected of adulteration or contamination by feed or drugs.

Although similar government investigation laboratories exist, Vet-LIRN members serve a unique purpose in their ability to diagnose feed and drug adverse events by testing samples outside the limitations of food testing laboratories.

For example, laboratories within Vet-LIRN can test samples like non-typical animal feed, blood, tissue and other anatomic samples, whereas food laboratories cannot, the announcement said. Examining animal-related samples, such as those tested in Vet-LIRN member laboratories, has proved to be essential in the early detection of adulteration or contamination.

Since its development, Vet-LIRN laboratories have assisted with numerous nationwide investigations. Most recently, the network assisted with investigating reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs eating certain pet foods. Other notable investigations include cases of dogs developing hyperthyroidism from eating certain foods, illnesses related to jerky treats and a large-scale investigation into pentobarbital found in canned dog food.

In addition to furthering TVMDL’s impact, joining Vet-LIRN will bring other benefits to the agency, the announcement said. Along with other sections, TVMDL’s analytical chemistry section routinely performs several tests specific to the needs of Vet-LIRN investigations.

“We will have the opportunity to participate in proficiency testing programs to ensure accurate test results, train scientists and apply for funding to build laboratory capacity for routine and emergency response efforts,” said Dr. Travis Mays, analytical chemistry section head at College Station. “This opportunity will further TVMDL’s mission, allowing us to provide the highest level of service to our clients.”

With TVMDL’s acceptance, the agency joins more than 40 state and university veterinary diagnostic laboratories across the U.S. and Canada already within Vet-LIRN.

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