Infectious agents in rodents induce clinical disease, subclinical effects, and in some cases zoonotic disease. This compromises research data and can have a tremendous impact on research productivity when eradication methods are implemented. As a result University Animal Care has implemented a stringent preventive health monitoring program to assess the infectious disease status of all animals prior to receipt. The UAC Procurement Office coordinates the acquisition of rodents for research. Rodents are ordered from approved, specific pathogen free vendors when available. However, recent demand for genetically modified rodents has significantly increased requests for animals from non-commercial vendors (i.e. other research institutions) that do not meet the specifications for an approved source. Non-Approved Source (NAS) vendor animals undergo extensive scrutiny and testing prior to entrance into UAC animal facilities, thereby minimizing the chance for introduction of pathogens.
Prior to final approval for arrival, NAS vendors are requested to send one year of health reports for review. Reports are reviewed by the UAC's Director and Purchasing Office for compliance with department standards. If the health reports lack information, the vendor is requested to further test the animals and provide the missing information or to send several animals for immediate testing by the UAC Pathology Services Laboratory with costs recharged to the UA investigator. Once the initial health screening is approved, the animals are shipped.
Upon receipt, NAS rodents are placed in quarantine areas at CAF. Sentinel rodents are exposed to these animals for 4 weeks, allowing time for infection, seroconversion, and completion of prepatent periods. The sentinels receive soiled bedding from the shipping boxes upon arrival and from animal cages at each cage change and are placed in direct contact for one week with the NAS animals to maximize transmission of infectious agents. After the 4 week exposure period, a comprehensive necropsy profile is performed on the sentinel animals.
If no infectious pathogens are detected, animals are moved into rodent rooms within the facilities. If infectious pathogens are detected, UAC veterinarians plan an appropriate course of action dependent upon the agent detected, generally in consultation with the research group. Eradication methods include rederivation by embryo transfer, strict isolation for the duration of the research study, treatment with parasiticides, or depopulation.
Quarantine procedures are used to maintain healthy rodent populations within UAC animal facilities, to minimize variation associated with infectious agents, and to prevent epizootics in the rodent colonies that could significantly impact numerous research studies. An effective rodent quarantine program is critical for protecting these resources.