The hottest trend in rodent vivarium diagnostics is PCR-based pathogen surveillance of entire spaces. TaqMan technology can use swabs of dust accumulation points to monitor 100 or more cages at a time with much greater sensitivity than using a cage of “sentinel” mice housed on bedding samples from each test population. This improves test sensitivity, decreases the time from infection to detection, and does away with the need for “sentinel” mice, thus increasing the number of cages available to further the research mission.

Scientists at Charles River are also increasingly using genetic fingerprinting to determine when rats or mice are related. Because research animals purchased from vendors rarely supply this kind of data, it was never possible to identify siblings. Yet such information can be useful in studies that produce an unusual finding—a possibly familial tumor or even an odd metabolic result—that could be due to the fact that the outliers driving the finding are, in fact, related. Genetic fingerprinting techniques can now determine if a group of animals are siblings or half-siblings or unrelated.. — Charles Clifford, Director of Pathology and Technical Services at Charles River in Wilmington