Virology unit leads way in protecting Irish horses
The virology unit at the Irish Equine Centre is one of just four reference laboratories for equine influenza in the world.
Last October it was also designated as an OIE reference laboratory for equine rhinopneumonitis (equine herpes 1 virus or EHV-1). It is the only laboratory of its kind in Ireland.
The OIE is the veterinary equivalent of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and has a total of 180 member countries and a global network of reference laboratories covering 118 diseases of animals and birds.
The unit is led by Professor Ann Cullinane, who has been a major force in protecting the Irish equestrian industry from such diseases for almost 30 years.
A veterinary graduate from UCD, she later won a scholarship to do a PHd in equine influenza in Glasgow. She also gained experience in Cambridge and Boston, before returning to Ireland to set up the unit in 1997.
"We were fortunate at the time to receive a substantial grant from Sheikh Mohammed and that really got us off our feet," she said, "but ongoing research to combat these viruses takes a lot of resources, both financially and in terms of staff."
While many people consider the Irish Equine Centre to specialise in mostly thoroughbreds, it offers a comprehensive service to all sections of the Irish horse industry.
Equine influenza proved to be the biggest cause for concern in Ireland in recent years and last year 15 cases were diagnosed throughout the country.