WOAH Reference Laboratories

The Irish Equine Centre is designated a World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) reference laboratory for equine influenza and equine rhinopneumonitis, i.e. equine herpesvirus. It is one of only three reference laboratories in the world for equine influenza and one of two for equine herpesvirus. The other WOAH reference laboratories for these equine diseases are in the Gluck Equine Research Center in Kentucky (influenza and rhinopneumonitis) and in the Japan Racing Association Equine Research Institute (influenza). The remit of WOAH Reference Laboratories is to pursue all the scientific and technical problems relating to a named disease. The designated WOAH expert responsible for reference laboratories must be a leading researcher and have the international scientific and technical standing to provide expert advice on topics linked to the diagnosis, epidemiology and control of the disease for which they are responsible. Professor Ann Cullinane is the WOAH designated expert for equine influenza and equine herpesvirus at the Irish Equine Centre. She is assisted by Dr. Marie Garvey in carrying out the key responsibilities such as:
This work is supported by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

WOAH Expert Surveillance Panel (ESP) for equine influenza

Ann Cullinane is Chair of the WOAH Expert Surveillance Panel (ESP) for equine influenza. This panel which consists of WOAH and World Health Organisation (WHO) experts and other equine influenza experts, meets annually to review data in relation to equine influenza outbreaks all over the world and to make recommendations on the need to update equine influenza vaccines. These recommendations are published on the WOAH website https://www.woah.org/en/home/

WOAH Twinning

It is essential for the global control of equine influenza that the ESP receives information relating to disease outbreaks and the emergence of antigenic and genetic variants from as wide a geographic area as possible. WOAH approved a twinning from 2011 to 2015 between the Irish Equine Centre and the National Harbin Veterinary Research Institute of China. Under the WOAH twinning programme, laboratory expertise pertaining to the diagnosis and control of equine influenza was transferred from the Irish Equine Centre to Harbin Veterinary Research Institute. The activities included site visits, laboratory training programmes, exchange of reagents, proficiency tests and the organisation of a scientific meeting in Harbin for veterinary virologists from Mongolia, Japan, Singapore and other countries in the region. Since the commencement of the twinning, Professor Xiaojun Wang of Harbin is a regular participant at the ESP meetings.

Biological Standards Commission

The WOAH Biological Standards Commission composed of six elected members, is concerned with developing internationally agreed standards for laboratory diagnostic tests and vaccines for WOAH-listed animal diseases of mammals, birds and bees. These standards are published in the WOAH manual. In 2018, Ann Cullinane was elected as a Member of the Biological Standards Commission and in 2021, she was elected Vice President.

Emergency Response to COVID

Ann Cullinane’s involvement in the WOAH response to the COVID pandemic included chairing the WOAH COVID-19 Advisory Group on Animal Health Laboratory Support and assisting with preparation of high-level guidance on testing human specimens for COVID-19 virus in veterinary laboratories. She was a member of the WOAH ad hoc group on COVID-19 at the human-animal interface and Chair of and FAO/OIE Advisory Group on viral evolution of SARS-CoV-2 in animals. She is the WOAH representative on the WHO SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution Working Group.