How Immunoassays & Veterinary Lab Management Software Can Elevate Infectious Disease Diagnostics

Leveraging Immunoassays & Veterinary Lab Management Software to Advance Infectious Disease Diagnosis in Animals
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Most animals suffer from at least one infectious disease in their lifetime, while 28% suffer from at least four. This makes the diagnosis of infectious diseases integral to veterinary medicine. Veterinary laboratories often rely on advanced diagnostic methods to identify infectious diseases. One such tool that has revolutionized the field of veterinary diagnostics is immunoassays. This blog highlights how immunoassays work, their significance in diagnosing infectious diseases, and the overall impact of immunoassays on animal health.

What Are Immunoassays?

Immunoassays are bioanalytical methods that rely on the specificity of antigen (a molecule capable of triggering an immune response) and antibody (a protein produced by the immune system in response to an antigen) reactions to detect and quantify various substances in biological samples. There are different types of immunoassays including Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA), Radioimmunoassay (RIA), Fluoroimmunoassay (FIA), Chemiluminescence and counting immunoassays.

How Do Immunoassays Work?

The fundamental principle behind immunoassays is the binding of antigens (analyte) with antibodies. Despite the different kinds of immunoassays, they all follow a similar procedure as outlined below: 

  • Sample Collection: Like in all assays, the first step is to collect a sample, for example, blood, urine, or tissue, from the animal being tested. This sample may contain antibodies produced by the animal’s immune system in response to an infectious agent.
  • Test Setup: In the laboratory, the collected sample is mixed with an immunoanalytical reagent and incubated. The immunoanalytical reagent contains a fixed quantity of labeled analyte and anti-analyte antibodies. A competitive binding reaction commences in which the labeled analyte competes with a variable quantity of unlabeled sample analyte to bind to a restricted number of binding sites on an antigen-specific antibody. 
  • Binding Reaction: If the target antigen is present in the sample, it will bind to the corresponding antibodies to form an immune complex. The complex formed is isolated from the fraction of unbound reagent using a physical or chemical separation method. Analysis is then conducted by quantifying the label activity, such as radiation, fluorescence, luminescence, or enzyme activity, in either the bound or free fraction. A less bound labeled antibody or more free labeled antibody indicates a higher concentration of antigen in the sample. 
  • Signal Measurement: A calibration curve is constructed to depict the signal measurement correlated with the concentration of the unlabeled analyte present in the sample. Subsequently, the concentration of unknown analytes is inferred from this established calibration curve.

The Role of Immunoassays in Veterinary Diagnostics

A majority of modern veterinary laboratories rely on immunoassays for their diagnostics. ELISA tests are widely used, even though some labs may rely on colloidal particle-based immunoassay (CPIA) and immunofluorescence assay (IFA) which may not be as sensitive. Listed below are the key benefits of immunoassays in veterinary labs: 

  • Offer Rapid Diagnosis: Immunoassays are known for their speed and efficiency. Veterinary labs can quickly diagnose infections using immunoassays, enabling veterinarians to initiate appropriate treatments promptly.
  • Offer High Sensitivity and Specificity: Immunoassays are highly sensitive and are capable of detecting pathogens even at low concentrations. They are also highly specific and hence reduce the likelihood of false positive results.
  • Have a Broad Range of Applications: Immunoassays can be used to diagnose a wide range of infectious diseases in animals, from common conditions like parvovirus in dogs to more complex conditions such as avian influenza in birds.
  • Support Monitoring and Surveillance: Veterinary labs use immunoassays for ongoing monitoring of disease prevalence in animal populations. This is particularly important in managing disease outbreaks and ensuring the effectiveness of vaccination programs.
  • Enable Research and Development: Immunoassays are essential tools in research aimed at understanding the epidemiology and pathogenesis of infectious diseases in animals. They help researchers develop new diagnostic tests and vaccines.

Immunoassays are simple to administer and they are also inexpensive. At the same time, they have a high level of accuracy and a wide range of applications. This makes them a go-to option for many veterinary laboratories that test for infectious diseases.

How Veterinary Lab Management Software Supports Immunoassay Testing

Veterinary lab management software, also known as Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS), serves as an indispensable tool for veterinary laboratories conducting immunoassays for infectious disease diagnosis. With an up-to-date LIMS, vet labs can easily streamline their entire diagnostic process by efficiently managing and organizing the vast amounts of data generated during immunoassay testing. A vet LIMS supports sample tracking, ensures the integrity of each specimen, and automates result recording. This reduces the risk of transcription errors and boosts the overall efficiency and productivity of the lab.

A cloud-hosted LIMS facilitates remote data analysis and reporting, allowing for swift identification of disease outbreaks and trends. Overall, a LIMS plays a pivotal role in enhancing the efficiency, accuracy, and traceability of infectious disease diagnosis in veterinary laboratories. This ultimately contributes to better animal health management and disease control.

Challenges and Advances

Immunoassays have transformed the landscape of veterinary diagnostics by providing rapid, sensitive, and specific methods for identifying infectious diseases in animals. They play a pivotal role in safeguarding animal health, preventing disease spread, and advancing our understanding of infectious agents that affect our beloved animal companions. 

That said, they have not been without their fair share of challenges. Cross-reactivity with related pathogens, the need for skilled technicians, and potential variations in results are some of the issues faced in the field. Nevertheless, ongoing advancements, such as the development of more specific antibodies and automated immunoassay platforms, continue to improve the accuracy and efficiency of these diagnostic tools.

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