A molecular lab developed by Agriculture Victoria has opened in Timor-Leste to boost local animal health and safeguard Australia from exotic animal diseases.

The purpose-built lab is designed to help deliver veterinary diagnostic services, targeting exotic diseases such as African swine fever, classical swine fever, foot-and-mouth disease, and lumpy skin disease.

Brendan Rodoni, research director at Agriculture Victoria, said the project was providing valuable first-hand experience for Victorian scientists in diagnosing diseases that are not found in Australia.

“Our researchers have the opportunity to test a range of newly developed diagnostic tools on diseases that are exotic to Australia.

“This helps us to build skills and capacity in exotic disease surveillance and diagnosis so we are better prepared if there was an outbreak in Australia.”

The lab was built as part of a seven-year project in partnership with the Timorese Government and Agriculture Victoria, and is funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Bill Costello, Australian Ambassador, and Pedro dos Reis, Timorese Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, opened the lab in Dili and extended a special thankyou to Agriculture Victoria researchers Grant Rawlin and Peter Mee, who are training local vets and technicians to use the lab.

Professor Rawlin and Dr Mee are spending the month in Timor-Leste training local veterinarians on how to use a range of diagnostic tools, including qPCR testing – a real-time method for detecting different microbial agents in animal samples, and LAMP investigations – a highly specific, low cost, fast and portable test for pathogenic viruses.

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