State lab earns accreditation, expands services to protect New Mexico’s animal health

NMDA’s veterinary lab widens array of services following national accreditation

(ALBUQUERQUE) – The state lab whose work helps protect against the spread of disease in New Mexico’s animals – big and small, domesticated and wild – is expanding its services under new national accreditation.

New Mexico Department of Agriculture’s (NMDA) Veterinary Diagnostic Services (VDS) laboratory, located in Albuquerque, analyzes animal specimens – whether a vial of fluid, a piece of tissue, or an entire carcass – to identify disease or determine the cause of death.  The lab works with veterinarians and other agencies to test everything from mice to mules.  Now, thanks to the accreditation VDS earned from the National Animal Health Laboratory Network in April, the lab is adding new tests.

“To earn national accreditation is huge – and a huge nod to the hard work the VDS team of veterinarians, pathologists, technicians, and support staff have done in recent years,” said New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte.  “But when accreditation starts to really mean something is when the lab gets the go-ahead to perform more specialized tests, and that’s what’s beginning to happen now.”

Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved VDS’s request to test for the Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (VSV) in horses.  USDA made the announcement after VDS staff trained on detecting VSV, then tested their proficiency on various animal specimens.

VSV primarily affects horses, as well as cattle and pigs and sometimes sheep and goats.  It causes blisters in the mouth of animal, as well as on its lips, nostrils, hooves, and udder.  When the blisters swell and break, they leave raw tissue that is so painful, an infected animal generally refuses to eat and drink.  In most livestock, that means severe weight loss; in dairy cows, it means a severe drop in milk production.

The sale of New Mexico’s cattle and calves, plus the sale of milk produced by cows and other livestock in the state, tops $3 billion every year.  Their real contribution to the state’s economy is much larger, however, when you consider the value that gets added when, say, milk gets processed into products such as cheese, yogurt, and ice cream.

Earlier this year under its new accreditation, the VDS lab began offering the test for piroplasmosis, a bloodborne disease that affects horses, donkeys, mules, and zebras.  Going forward under the new accreditation, VDS will request to test for Chronic Wasting Disease, a neurological disease affecting deer and elk; as well as Avian Influenza, which devastated commercial poultry flocks across the Midwest earlier this year.