The Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s (TDA) Kord Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory has the state’s first Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) testing facility. The CWD testing unit is operational and fully accredited by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the organization that develops and publishes international standards.
“A dozen counties in West Tennessee are CWD positive or high risk,” Commissioner Charlie Hatcher, D.V.M. said. “Kord Lab’s CWD unit produces valuable information to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, captive herd owners, and to hunters. This unit also supports the One Health initiative for greater understanding of health connections among people, animals, and plants.”
Last October, the CWD testing facility received its first samples from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) to test for the highly contagious, fatal neurological disease that infects deer, elk, and other cervids. During the most recent deer season, the lab received nearly 600 samples from TWRA each week. That amount is expected to triple in 2021.
Kord Laboratory’s data also plays an active and impactful role in understanding the disease. Findings in the testing process inform why some deer get CWD and others don’t, and the lab archives samples for study. In addition to the data collected for testing, Kord Laboratory provides information that aids in mapping Tennessee’s CWD zones. Currently, the new CWD facility accepts samples only from TWRA. Labs that provide CWD testing services to the public are found on the TWRA webpage here: www.tn.gov/twra/hunting/cwd/cwd-in-tennessee#CWDPositives
Because of CWD’s resilient prions, microbiologists working in the lab adhere to strict biosecurity measures to prevent contamination. After six months of operation, the lab successfully passed an audit to earn ISO 17025:2017, the international standard that specifies general requirements for the competence, impartiality, and consistent operation of laboratories.
“Our commitment to attain the highest standards of quality is demonstrated by this achievement,” Kord Laboratory Director Kenneth Kim, D.V.M. said. “Earning accreditation to operate the new CWD section is not a requirement, but we aim for consistently reliable test data and effective health and safety regulations in all of TDA’s operations.”
Prior to last year’s deer season, Kord Lab was proficiency tested by USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) and this latest certification allows the lab to participate in National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) CWD testing. Several tests for high-consequence animal diseases are also ISO accredited at Kord Lab.
The C. E. Kord Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory supports animal disease diagnosis and regulatory activities within Tennessee. The lab serves the needs of the livestock industry and promotes animal health within the state by providing diagnostic services to Tennessee veterinarians, animal owners, and commercial animal operations.