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The Irish Equine Centre Gains a Second OIE Reference Laboratory

Article posted on 07-10-2015

The Irish Equine Centre is delighted to announce that the OIE has designated a second OIE Reference Laboratory at the IEC. The OIE is the veterinary equivalent of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and has a total of 180 member countries and a global network of Reference Laboratories covering 118 diseases of animals and birds.

As testament to the scale of this achievement, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney visited the IEC this morning to congratulate the staff. While there, Minister Coveney took the opportunity to tour the IEC’s laboratories and meet with members of the IEC team.

In 2009 the IEC was designated an OIE Reference Laboratory for equine influenza and Professor Ann Cullinane, the head of the IEC’s Virology Unit, was designated an OIE Expert in this field. Since then the IEC remains the only OIE Reference Laboratory in the Republic of Ireland and one of four OIE Reference Laboratories for equine influenza in the world (the others are in Kentucky, Newmarket and Berlin). Equine Influenza is regarded as one of the five most important infectious diseases necessitating regulation for the movement of racehorses and other high performance horses.

Minister Coveney meeting members of the Virology Unit

In June 2015 the Virology Unit at the IEC was designated an OIE Reference Laboratory for equine rhinopneumonitis (equine herpes 1 virus or EHV-1). Professor Ann Cullinane is again designated the OIE Expert. This is a further vote of confidence in the scientific expertise that has been developed by the IEC and its Virology Unit and demonstrates Ireland’s commitment to animal health to the global community.

Equine rhinopneumonitis or EHV-1 is the most pathogenic virus endemic in the Irish horse population. It is a major cause of both sporadic and multiple abortions, paralysis and respiratory disease that result in ongoing financial loss to the industry. Given the covering fees for successful stallions, a single abortion can be the cause of significant financial loss and multiple abortions can be economically devastating to a breeding farm. The incidence of equine influenza varies considerably from year to year but both single and multiple EHV1 abortions are diagnosed each breeding season. On occasion private stud owners have suffered 100% loss i.e. all of their in-foal mares aborted.

Sarah McNicholas, Chief Executive of the IEC stated: “I am extremely proud of the Irish Equine Centre and more specifically of Professor Ann Cullinane and her team in the Virology Unit who have become world-leaders in the control of equine viruses, which represent a major disease threat to horses. To have two OIE Reference Laboratories within the one unit is an immense achievement which is only accomplished when the quality of the research and expertise is exceptional. In Ireland we are extremely lucky that our equine population is able to benefit from the knowledge developed by the IEC’s Virology Unit.”

Professor Ann Cullinane, Head of Virology and designated OIE Expert stated: “This designation by the OIE illustrates that the Irish have a dedicated laboratory service consistent with the international profile of their horses. It is a testament to the hard work and dedication of a professional and committed team. Together we will continue to support the Irish and international equine communities through initiatives such as our Twinning with the National Veterinary Institute in China and our research programmes on behalf of OIE in partnership with the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) and the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA).”

Minister Coveney speaking

Please contact the Irish Equine Centre on +353 (0)45 866266 for more information or email us at