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National Reference Laboratory for SARS-CoV-2 infections in animals

Information of the FLI on the current SARS-CoV-2 Situation


The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which was first detected in 2019, spread worldwide from 2020 onwards, causing mild to fatal illness in people in all countries of the world. The most likely starting point of the pandemic was transmission from animals (initially probably bats) to humans. In the course of the massive pandemic, it eventually spread to other animal species, some of which live in the direct vicinity of humans. Therefore, animal studies on the susceptibility of farm animals and pets were carried out at the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut at the beginning of the pandemic. These showed that not all animal species are equally susceptible to the virus. An up-to-date overview of the occurrence and susceptibility of different species can be found on the website of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) (Link to PDF).

Therefore, in July 2020, the obligation to report infections of animals with the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 was introduced in Germany. The National Reference Laboratory for SARS-CoV-2 infections in animals has validated methods for molecular and serological diagnostics of samples collected in connection with SARS-CoV-2. In addition to sensitive and specific in-house methods, commercially available tests are also used for the respective applications. Furthermore, the NRL participates in national and international ring tests, organizes national ring trials, serves as a contact for the veterinary testing laboratories of the countries and conducts research on the occurrence, diagnostics, pathogenesis, therapy, control and immunoprophylaxis of SARS-CoV2 infections in animals.

  • Antigen- and genome detection in sample material
  • Antibody detection
  • Primary contact for federal, state and European authorities regarding coronavirus diagnostic and control
  • Characterization of virus isolates
  • Review, standardization and enhancement of diagnostic procedures
  • Participation and organization of ring trials (national and international)
  • Collaboration with national and international working groups and participation on research projects
  • Virus isolation and cultivation in vitro
  • Genome detection by RT-PCR (quantitative)
  • Characterization of virus strains by genome sequencing
  • Quantitative analysis of neutralizing antibodies (serum neutralization assays, plaque reduction assays, surrogate assays)
  • Serological analysis of antibodies by ELISA including differentiation of immunoglobulin classes
  • Immunofluorescence-based detection of antibodies (iIFA)
  • Sample material for establishment and validation of novel diagnostic methods (RT-PCR)
  • Infection experiments on the pathogenicity and transmissibility of coronaviruses in wild animals and farm animals
  • Epidemiological studies on the transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2 to pets
  • Dritte Verordnung zur Änderung der Verordnung über meldepflichtige Tierkrankheiten vom 8. Juli 2020, Bundesgesetzblatt Teil I Nr. 34, 13.07.2020
  • Verordnung über meldepflichtige Tierkrankheiten in der jeweils geltenden Fassung