Viral Diagnostics

Electron microscope helps pinpoint a disease-causing virus

image of influenza2
Rocky Baker, supervisor of the virology lab in the Oregon State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, identified this influenza virus in pet ferrets whose owner had come down with the flu. Ferrets are susceptible, he says, and the owner was concerned that his animals became sick after contact with a family member who had influenza symptoms.

The College of Veterinary Medicine plays a vital role in animal and human health by diagnosing causes of disease. Baker uses transmission electron microscopy (TEM) weekly to rapidly identify viruses in pets and livestock.

“It’s invaluable to narrowing the playing field,” he says. “There’s a lot of money you can throw at a sample trying to determine what you’ve got. Often, if I can see it by electron microscopy, that’s all I need.”

Baker has identified ORF virus in sheep that had sores on their teats and canine parvovirus in a puppy that had severe diarrhea. In the puppy’s case, a kit test had found no evidence of parvo. Such tests are highly sensitive, he says, to when they are done in the disease cycle.

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