USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has purchased diagnostic tests for African swine fever (ASF) and foot and mouth disease (FMD). 

The purchases were made possible through funding in the 2018 farm bill establishing the National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank. Mike Stepien, APHIS spokesperson, told Agri-Pulse that APHIS has purchased kits to bank in the event of an outbreak of FMD or ASF in the U.S. for the purchase price of $519,250. 

APHIS is also working closely with the manufacturer to conduct shelf-life studies to determine the optimal shelf life for long term storage, Stepien added. Tetracore, the manufacturer of the only APHIS Center for Veterinary Biologics-licensed Real-Time PCR kits for the two diseases, is currently the sole supplier of the tests. 

Joe Lucero, Tetracore's director of global sales and marketing, said the kits are available in one central location and can be “deployed at a moment’s notice.” The amount of kits purchased has not been disclosed, but Lucero said the company “would be committed to producing several times more than what is currently in stock for USDA” in the event of an outbreak.

He said the tests provide results in about an hour. Testing can be done by approved state, industry and university partners.

The purchase represents a shift from the National Animal Disease Preparedness Program's previous focus on vaccine stockpiling to a new added emphasis on acquiring testing resources. APHIS advised stakeholders that, without an adequate testing supply, “disease control and eradication would be challenging.”

Allison Rivera, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association executive director of government affairs, called the tests “an important tool in the toolbox … to combat foreign animal diseases.” She said NCBA is pleased APHIS bought the test kits and will encourage further investment in the supply of FMD vaccines and kits in the upcoming farm bill process. 

Over the next 90 days, APHIS is gathering information to determine the potential to include additional test kits and devices. The agency said it anticipates diagnostic products from more than one source, and possibly more than one type to “ensure an adequate supply of these products for a sudden surge of diagnostic samples” that could result from a foreign animal disease outbreak in the United States.

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