The WildTech Project: At the cutting edge of disease diagnostic technology

Imagine that you are a wildlife veterinarian and that you have been called in to deal with a large die-off of ducks at a Canadian lake. Your initial assessment of the birds indicates that the cause of the die-off is probably an infectious disease, but it is not a disease that you have seen before and you do not know the cause. It is important that you determine the cause as quickly as possible so that you can determine the risk posed to the duck population, to other wildlife species, to domestic animals, and to people, and so that you can manage the disease appropriately.   Now you have a major challenge on your hands, because current diagnostic technologies only allow you to test for one infectious agent (i.e., one bacteria, virus, or parasite) at a time. You will probably have to run a number of tests before you are able to detect the agent causing this disease, and this will take a lot of time and labor. It would be much better if you could test for multiple agents at the same time, which has not been possible up to this point. That is about to change, however, with the advent of microarray technology.

A microarray is a microchip that contains numerous probes for different bacteria and viruses, thereby allowing you to screen for many different agents at the same time. These arrays can be designed for a variety of purposes, such as screening for any disease in a specific species or screening for any cause of a specific syndrome (e.g., gastrointestinal disease) in a variety of species. A single microarray can have probes for hundreds of different bacteria, viruses, and parasites, and can therefore dramatically decrease the time it takes to get a diagnosis. The WildTech Project is a multinational European collaboration based out of the United Kingdom, the goal of which is to design microarrays for rapid diagnosis of infectious disease in wildlife. The CCWHC is an official partner of the WildTech Project, which is among the first to be developing wildlife disease microarrays. Currently, the high costs associated with microarray technologies means that these arrays are being used primarily for research purposes. However, this technology is becoming more accessible every day and will most likely come into more widespread use in the future, revolutionizing the way we diagnose disease.

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1 Response

  1. David Groman says:

    This microarray technology is expensive for use in field. The Center should consider using LUMINEX multiplexing technologies. The platform is reusable and you get similar molecular sensitivity and specificity.

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