Emerging infectious diseases, particularly frog and salamander chytridiomycosis, and infection with several species of ranaviruses, are major threats to amphibian biodiversity. Diagnostic tests that can reliably detect the presence of these diseases are crucial to controlling the spread of disease, ensuring disease-free status in rescue colonies and the success of translocation and re-introduction programs. Laboratories worldwide that perform tests for these pathogens produce results that influence conservation strategies and governmental policies. Accuracy and repeatability of testing is crucial.
Although there are recommendations regarding protocols and the use of standards, methodology varies amongst labs depending on their purpose, size and equipment. In most cases, labs are unable to confirm their results or access an outside quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) program. The Diagnostics Working Group has developed a QA/QC program to meet the critical need for a QA/QC program that is practical, economical and accessible.
The Diagnostic Working Group QA/QC Program uses a “round robin” methodology based on comparing results amongst labs running similar tests. An independent agency supplies blind samples to all labs, collects and compares the results. Labs are informed of where their results stand, but the confidentiality of each lab is maintained.
In 2016, a group of 19 labs from 4 countries participated in a pilot round-robin on PCR tests for Bd and Bsal, organized by Environment Canada (now Environment and Climate Change Canada, ECCC) and the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative (CWHC). Results reflected the great difference that exists in the calculation of pathogen load amongst labs and the need to explore a standardized methodology. The trial also reflected the interest and willingness to collaborate amongst amphibian pathogen professionals.
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QA/QC Program results