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US: Animal lab closes, lack of funds

Due to budget shortfalls, the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System, managed by the University of California, Davis, will close its Fresno laboratory on 19 July.

The laboratory system provides diagnostic services for diseases in livestock, poultry and horses to veterinarians and animal producers in California’s agricultural heartland. Closure of the 59-year-old Fresno laboratory will shift diagnostic testing to other facilities in the laboratory system.

"We are proud of the Fresno laboratory's long service to California," said Bennie Osburn, dean of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, which operates the laboratory network. "Unfortunately, reduced state funding combined with rising costs to manage a sophisticated laboratory system have left it struggling to maintain services."

The laboratory system, managed by UC Davis since 1987, has its reference lab at UC Davis and branch laboratories in Turlock, Fresno, Tulare and San Bernardino. The network of diagnostic labs receives approx. 80% of its funding from a contract with the California Department of Food and Agriculture. The remainder of its revenue comes from fee-for-service testing provided to veterinarians and agricultural producers. Rising costs and a reduction in the contract with the state during 2008-2009, compounded by the weak economy, have left the system with a projected funding deficit exceeding $2 mln in 2009-2010.

The Fresno branch laboratory has provided a full range of testing services including poultry disease monitoring, as well as surveillance for brucellosis, tuberculosis and avian viruses. Following the lab’s closure, brucellosis surveillance and poultry pathology will be carried out at the Tulare laboratory. Diagnostic tests for viruses in poultry will be conducted at the laboratory at UC Davis, while blood and serum tests will be done at the Turlock laboratory.

Natalie Berkhout

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