New 58 Million Animal Lab To Fight Disease


    EAST LANSING — With bovine tuberculosis — and more recently the West Nile virus — on the minds of Michigan residents, the state has been working on ways to combat these and other animal diseases.

    A new $58 million Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory on the Michigan State University campus will be used to research and fight such diseases.

    “This is a day of optimism for us,” Gov. John Engler said in announcing the start of work on the laboratory. “This has long been a priority of mine.”

    The facility, which will have about 150,000 square feet of lab space, is scheduled for completion by July 2003. It is part of Engler’s bovine tuberculosis control plan introduced in March 2000.

    Engler told reporters that scientists will use the laboratory to research and fight some of the 150 animal-based diseases that have migrated to humans.

    The governor made it a priority to attend the event, a little more than 24 hours after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

    “This facility will play an invaluable role in addressing animal health issues in the state. As far as food safety goes, from the farm to the refrigerator, we can handle it here.”

    The state-financed laboratory will work on problems that local veterinarians cannot figure out.

    It will replace a facility established in the mid-1970s to study the unprecedented number of cattle deaths linked to contaminated feed on farms in the state.

    Each day, the 115 employees at the facility receive hundreds of samples from farmers and veterinarians around the state, who can either send the samples directly to the lab or bring in the actual animal.

    The new facility will increase the staff to 130. Currently, the facility, with more than a million tests a year, is one of the largest in the country. The largest is a national laboratory in Ames, Iowa.

    “There has been a need expressed for the last eight or 10 years,” said lab director Willie Reed.

    “The bovine tuberculosis problem really pushed the issue into the forefront.”

    The lab has been instrumental in testing the deer population for tuberculosis. It works closely with the Department of Natural Resources to monitor the population and assess whether or not the actions to combat the disease have been effective.

    When the construction is complete, it will allow for all of the testing to be done in one facility, rather than the four facilities now used.

    “Exporting cattle to neighboring states has been a large issue for the state of Michigan,” said Dan Wyant, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture.

    “This sends a message to them that we are committed to the safety of our animals.”

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