Check out this interesting article by Ken Henderson in R&D magazine that explores PCR methods—including exhaust air dust (EAD) testing—to improve the health of animal research colonies. Historically, researchers have depended on soiled bedding sentinel rodents to indirectly monitor for infectious agents that can confound studies. But improvements in biosecurity, the sharing of transgenic mice among facilities and other factors have in various ways challenged sentinel systems. As the article points out, the need to improve agent detection and the evolution of affordable high-throughput PCR technology eventually persuaded laboratories to accept and steadily replace bedding sentinels with PCR testing of pooled non-invasive samples obtained directly from quarantined mice (oral swab, body swab and fecal pellet).

The latest trend in PCR testing is EAD, where dust samples can be collected from compatible IVC racks and evaluated using PCR panels, potentially eliminating the need for soiled bedding sentinels entirely. Henderson, who is Director of Research and Development within Charles River’s Research Animal Diagnostic Services at Charles River, talks about the optimal ways to use EAD and how it is transforming how we monitor for infectious disease in vivariums. And if you find this article interesting, check out Ken’s recent blogs on Eureka, There’s Something in the Air, and Dusting for Pathogens.