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Investigation into Emerging Disease and Bio Centre

Investigation into National Centre for Emerging Disease and Biosecurity - Wallaceville

MAF and ESR are investigating the feasibility of establishing a National Centre for Emerging Diseases and Biosecurity. Other organisations including AgriQuality and AgResearch support the concept.

A number of organisations, including the Ministry of Health, are being consulted about the proposal.

The proposed centre would be located at Wallaceville and would provide a centralised coordination and emergency response for disease outbreaks, biosecurity issues, and potentially chemical, biological threats and events.

It would utilise the high containment PC3+laboratory facilities built by AgResearch for MAF in 1999. Special containment laboratories are required for work on suspected cases of exotic animal and human disease such as SARS and foot and mouth disease and for investigating suspected bio-terrorism incidents.

MAF already uses the Wallaceville site for its National Centre for Disease Investigation. The PC3+ lab forms the central hub of MAF's operation into the investigation and diagnosis of suspected exotic diseases of animals.

The only infectious disease laboratory facility in New Zealand that provides this level of containment is located at Wallaceville. The site also has other containment labs, which meet international disease handling protocols and safety standards. ESR has at times used the PC3+lab for some of its infectious disease work.

"The skills and equipment required for the laboratory diagnosis of infectious diseases of animals and humans are similar. MAF and ESR already have an agreement to support each other in the event of major disease outbreaks and have already shared facilities and resources for investigations. Bringing the two groups close together on the same campus will increase the opportunities for collaboration, the exchange of ideas and the sharing of high-tech equipment," Hugh Davies, Director of MAF's Reference Laboratories said.

ESR would leverage off this resident animal infectious disease knowledge - most of the important emerging diseases threatening humans are zoonooses (diseases which transfer from animals to humans, e.g. BSE, avian flu, SARS).

"The Wallaceville campus, with its existing animal disease surveillance role, represents an excellent and cost effective opportunity to evolve into a National Centre for Biosecurity and Emerging Diseases, both human and animal," ESR's CEO John Hay said.

"It will cluster multi-disciplinary skills including microbiology, virology, epidemiology, incident response, disease modelling and forecasting.

"We anticipate that the national centre would use 2-5ha of land including the existing offices and PC2+ and PC3+ lab facilities. ESR would also investigate building other containment labs on the site in the future," he said.

"This move mirrors international trends to establish national disease control centres with critical mass of public health expertise and central laboratory capacity. This approach was recommended in the SARS Commission Interim Report recently released by the Ontario Ministry of Health," he said.

ESR would relocate some of its communicable disease staff to Wallaceville. However ESR's Kenepuru site, which houses more than 150 people, would remain unchanged. The Kenepuru site has laboratories and offices for ESR's work in forensic science, toxicology, pharmaceuticals, communicable disease, environmental health and workplace drug testing.

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