Photo courtesy - Robert Gibson

Mar 6, 2017 2:28 PM

New instrument at UNH can help prevent diseases in animals from spreading to humans

DURHAM — A new piece of equipment at the University of New Hampshire can now identify an infectious disease in animals in minutes instead of days, which can help prevent the spread of disease to humans.

“Accurately and rapidly identifying infectious agents is critical in safeguarding animal health, public health and New Hampshire agriculture,” said Robert Gibson, managing director of the lab. “The majority of infectious diseases in people, including the top bioterrorism agents, are considered zoonotic, which means they can be transferred from animals to humans. The speed at which we will be able to help diagnose contagious and reportable diseases to our clients and regulatory officials will have a significant impact on treatments and outbreak response.”

The Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Ionization Time of Flight Mass Spectrometry (MALDI-TOF) instrument — found in the N.H. Veterinary Diagnostic Lab — produces a molecular fingerprint to identify infectious agents. The machine mainly identifies bacterial and fungal infections by taking cultures from animals, Gibson said.

The MALDI-TOF cost $200,000 which was mostly paid for by the N.H. Agricultural Experiment Station and in part by a gift from a private donor.

The diagnostic lab at UNH partners with the state commissioner of agriculture and state veterinarian in their efforts to monitor and control animal diseases. It also provides services to hundreds of veterinarians from around New England who use the lab.

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