Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie
Italian health authority and research organization for animal health and food safety
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National reference centre / OIE reference laboratory / FAO reference centre for avian influenza and Newcastle disease

National reference laboratory / OIE reference laboratory / FAO reference centre for avian influenza and Newcastle disease

IZSVe was designated as National reference centre for Avian Influenza (AI) and Newcastle disease (ND) by the Ministry of Health of Italy in 1999. In January 2001 it was appointed as Reference Laboratory (RL) by OIE and in 2008 it was recognized by United Nations FAO as Reference Centre (RC) for animal influenza and Newcastle disease.

The Centre has managed several outbreaks in Italy caused by low pathogenic avian influenza(LPAI) and highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) of the H7 and H5 subtypes. In addition, it has supported several Middle Eastern, Central Asian and African countries in facing and combating the H5N1 HPAI and H9N2 LPAI infections.

The OIE/FAO Reference Laboratory functions as Centre of Expertise and standardization of diagnostic techniques. The Reference experts are leading and active researchers helping the Centre  to provide scientific and technical assistance and expert advice on topics linked to diagnosis, surveillance and control of the disease. They also provide scientific and technical training for veterinaries, technicians and students, and coordinate scientific activities in collaboration with other laboratories or organizations to strengthen their capacity to diagnose AI and ND infections.

The OIE RL and FAO RC are hosted in the Research and Innovation Department and in the Virology Laboratory in IZSVe. At August 2014 56 persons (23% male, 77% female) are working in these two departments with 13 distinct type of University Degrees represented (from veterinary degree to biology, biotechnology, chemistry degrees etc.). The structure employs 14 PhD’s, 5 Masters, 8 Post-University Degree Specialists. The mean age of the employees is 38.5 year. Six distinct languages are spoken as mother-tongue: Italian, English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Farsi.

Activities and servicesProjects and collaborationsPublicationsContacts

Activities and services

The main research areas are:

  • development of vaccination strategy, evaluation of vaccine efficacy and identification of vaccine candidates against epidemic strains;
  • development and validation of innovative diagnostic assay for AI and ND;
  • evaluation of the evolutionary dynamics of AI and ND viruses during epidemics and antigenic characterization of AI viruses;
  • pathogenesis studies of influenza and ND viruses in birds and mammals.

Specific activities and services performed at the IZSVe RL & RC

  • Management of outbreaks caused by AI and ND viruses
  • Production and distribution of reference reagents
  • Identification and characterization of isolates obtained during epidemics and surveillance
  • Organization of ring trials at a national and international level
  • Organization of laboratory training for the diagnosis of avian influenza and Newcastle disease
  • Phylogenetic analysis of AI and ND viruses
  • Development of research programs for improving the knowledge and tools for diagnosing and controlling AI and ND
  • Store viruses and sera in the IZSVe veterinary biobank

Mandate and general activities of the OIE RL and FAO RC

  • To use, promote and disseminate diagnostic methods validated according to OIE Standards (OIE);
  • To recommend the prescribed and alternative tests or vaccines as OIE Standards (OIE);
  • To develop reference material in accordance with OIE requirements, and implement and promote the application of OIE Standards (OIE);
  • To store and distribute to national laboratories biological reference products and any other reagents used in the diagnosis and control of the designated pathogens or diseases (OIE);
  • To develop, standardize and validate new procedures for the diagnosis and control of AI and NDV according to OIE Standards (OIE);
  • Standardization of technology, therapeutic and other substances and of methods/procedures (FAO)
  • To provide diagnostic testing facilities, and, where appropriate, scientific and technical advice on disease control measures to OIE Member Countries (OIE and FAO);
  • Provision of reference substances and services such as quality assurance (FAO)
  • To carry out and/or coordinate scientific and technical studies in collaboration with other laboratories, centres or organizations (OIE and FAO);To collect, process, analyse, publish and disseminate epizootiological data relevant to the designated pathogen or disease (OIE);
  • Provision on information and advice of a scientific, technical and policy nature (FAO)
  • To provide scientific and technical training for personnel from OIE Member Countries (OIE);
  • To contribute to capacity development inter alia through the provision of training (FAO);
  • To maintain a system of quality assurance, biosafety and biosecurity relevant for the pathogen and the disease concerned (OIE);
  • To organise and participate in scientific meetings on behalf of the OIE (OIE);
  • To establish and maintain a network with other OIE Reference Laboratories designated for the same pathogen or disease and organise regular inter-laboratory proficiency testing to ensure comparability of results (OIE);
  • To organise inter-laboratory proficiency testing with laboratories other than OIE Reference Laboratories for the same pathogens and diseases to ensure equivalence of results (OIE);
  • To place expert consultants at the disposal of the OIE (OIE).

Diagnostic capabilities

All laboratory techniques for the diagnosis, the complete characterization of isolates and the research activities related to infections caused by avian influenza and Newcastle disease viruses are performed at the OIE/FAO Reference Centre.

Serological (HI, AGID, ELISA, SN and MN) and classic virology (isolation in embryonated eggs and primary and continuous cell cultures) tests are commonly used for diagnosis and research, some of them (HI, AGID and virus isolation) have been accredited for many years.

In addition, traditional biomolecular techniques (RT-PCR, real time RT-PCR and genomic sequencing) as well as new advanced methods (i.e. Next Generation Sequencing) and bioinformatics tools to study viral evolutionary and spatial dynamics are presently being used and some of those have been accredited.

Projects and collaborations

The Centre is currently involved in the following research projects:

  • FP7-PREDEMICS – Prediction and Prevention of Emerging Zoonotic Viruses with Pandemic Potential using Multidisciplinary Approaches
  • FP7-FLUPIG – Pathogenesis and transmission of influenza in pigs
  • EMIDA Era-Net EpiSeq- “Molecular epidemiology of epizootic diseases using next generation sequencing technology”
  • ANIHWA Era-Net NADIV – Co-circulation of avian influenza and velogenic Newcastle disease viruses – impact on pathogenesis, immune response and disease prevention.
  • RF IZS VE 2318512-2010 – Role of influenza virus infection in the etiopathogenesis of diabetes.
  • RC IZSVE 21/12 – Genetic and antigenic characteristics of recent APMV-1 isolates collected in wild and domestic pigeons and vaccine efficacy of ND vaccines in pigeons

Additionally, it collaborates with international institutions (e.g. UN-FAO, IAEA, EU, EFSA, WHO) for the selection of vaccine candidates, the definition of virus genotype nomenclature and for organizing training activities.

The list of the ongoing international collaborations is here below reported:

OIE Twinning Project Italy-Iran

IZSVe – Iranian Central Veterinary Laboratory (CVL-IVO). The project includes, among the other things, the exchange of researchers, the organization of Workshops and scientific collaborations in different areas of study. The aim of the cooperation is to strengthen the technical and scientific capacity of the CVL through training sessions, seminars and cultural exchanges.

IZSVe - Cairo University (Egypt)

Memorandum of Understanding with the Faculty of Veterinary medicine, Department of Virology, Cairo University whose aim is to strengthen the scientific collaboration between the Parties. There is a mutual interest in conducting collaborative studies on animal pathogens, especially focused on the diagnosis and the research of avian influenza viruses (HPAI) through the sharing of viruses, reagents, facilities and expertise; training activities are implemented to develop and strengthen the mutual competences.

IZSVe - Central Laboratory for Evaluation of Veterinary Biologics (CLEVB - Egypt)

This collaboration has the following aims:

  • mutual collaboration to develop vaccines for influenza viruses;
  • training activities;
  • sharing of viruses, reagents and intellectual properties;
  • any other form of collaboration considered as necessary by one of the two Parties.

IZSVe – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC - Atlanta, USA)

By entering this Memorandum of Understanding the Parties declared their respective intentions to establish a basis of co-operation and collaboration with the following objectives:

  • collaboration in diagnostic and vaccine developments for influenza viruses;
  • training of research personnel;
  • sharing of viruses, reagents and intellectual properties.

IZSVe – CODA-CERVA National Reference Laboratory, Brussels (Belgium)

The agreement has the following objectives:

  • to promote and develop research activities between the two Institutions, whose target is to realize and implement projects intended to improve human and animal health through the study of animal viruses;
  • to identify the best strategies to improve the food control system.

IZSVe –University of Georgia (USA)

The Agreement has the following objectives:

  • the cooperative activities to be covered by this agreement may include faculty and student exchanges and study periods abroad;
  • organization of seminars and Workshops;
  • training activities;
  • research activities on Newcastle Disease so as to develop new strategies to control and develop efficient vaccines.

IZSVe – University of Pennsylvania (USA)

The Agreement has the following aims:

  • to promote research activities to simplify the exchange of knowledge and expertise;
  • training activities;
  • organization of seminars and staff exchange.

IZSVe - Kimron Veterinary Services (Israel)

The Agreement has the following aims:

  • exchange of researchers and students to execute the research;
  • development and implementation of cooperative research projects;
  • sharing of facilities and expertise.

IZSVe – Mississippi University (USA)

The Memorandum of Understanding has the following objectives:

  • to establish and facilitate mutual cooperation in research activities and the exchange of technical and scientific information, expertise and personnel;
  • to identify research centers and laboratories which are suitable to carry out the set activities;
  • development of mutually agreed upon collaborative research projects;
  • joint proposals for international funding for research projects.

IZSVe – Glasgow University (UK)

To achieve the goals of this cooperation, both parties will:

  • promote institutional exchange by inviting faculty and researchers of the partner institution to participate in appropriate research activities, organize symposia, conferences and meetings on research issues;
  • carry out joint research programs;
  • guarantee mutual support and collaboration.


The most relevant and recent ten references are here below reported:

  • Bonfante F, Fusaro A, Zanardello C, Patrono LV, De Nardi R, Maniero S, Terregino C (2014). Lethal nephrotropism of an H10N1 avian influenza virus stands out as an atypical pathotype. Vet Microbiol. 2014 Aug 19. pii: S0378-1135(14)00361-7. doi: 10.1016/j.vetmic.2014.07.023. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Monne, I., Fusaro, A., Nelson, M. I., Bonfanti, L., Mulatti, P., Hughes, J., Murcia, P. R., Schivo, A., Valastro, V., Moreno, A., Holmes, E. C., Cattoli, G. (2014). Emergence of a highly pathogenic avian influenza virus from a low pathogenic progenitor. Journal of Virology, 88(8), 4375-4388. doi:10.1128/JVI.03181-13888
  • Kasloff, S. B., Pizzuto, M. S., Silic-Benussi, M., Pavone, S., Ciminale, V., Capua, I. (2014). Oncolytic activity of avian influenza virus in human pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma cell lines. Journal of Virology, doi:JVI.00929-14 [pii].
  • Bonfanti L, Monne I, Tamba M, Santucci U, Massi P, Patregnani T, Loli Piccolomini L, Natalini S, Ferri G, Cattoli G, Marangon S. Highly pathogenic H7N7 avian influenza in Italy. Vet Rec. 2014 Apr 12;174(15):382. doi: 10.1136/vr.102202.
  • Terregino, C., Aldous, E. W., Heidari, A., Fuller, C. M., De Nardi, R., Manvell, R. J., Beato, M. S., Shell, W. M., Monne, I., Brown, I. H., Alexander, D. J., and Capua, I. Antigenic and genetic analyses of isolate APMV/wigeon/Italy/3920-1/2005 indicate that it represents a new avian paramyxovirus (APMV-12). Arch. Virol. 158:2233-2243. 2013.
  • Aiello, R., Beato, M. S., Mancin, M., Rigoni, M., Romero Tejeda, A., Maniero, S., Capua, I., Terregino, C. (2013). Differences in the detection of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 virus in feather samples from 4-week-old and 24-week-old infected pekin ducks (anas platyrhynchos var. domestica). Veterinary Microbiology, 165(3-4), 443-447. doi:10.1016/j.vetmic.2013.03.019; 10.1016/j.vetmic.2013.03.019165(3-4)Elsevier B.V
  • Capua, I., Mercalli, A., Pizzuto, M. S., Romero-Tejeda, A., Kasloff, S., De Battisti, C., Bonfante, F., Patrono, L. V., Vicenzi, E., Zappulli, V., Lampasona, V., Stefani, A., Doglioni, C., Terregino, C., Cattoli, G., Piemonti, L. (2013). Influenza A viruses grow in human pancreatic cells and cause pancreatitis and diabetes in an animal model. Journal of Virology, 87(1), 597-610. doi:10.1128/JVI.00714-12; 10.1128/JVI.00714-12871
  • Monne, I., Yamage, M., Dauphin, G., Claes, F., Ahmed, G., Giasuddin, M., Salviato, A., Ormelli, S., Bonfante, F., Schivo, A., Cattoli, G. (2013). Reassortant avian influenza A(H5N1) viruses with H9N2-PB1 gene in poultry, Bangladesh. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 19(10), 1630-1634. doi:10.3201/eid1910.130534; 10.3201/eid1910.1305341910
  • Meseko C, Olaleye D, Capua I, Cattoli G. (2013). Swine Influenza in Sub-Saharan Africa – Current Knowledge and Emerging Insights. Zoonoses Public Health. 2013 Jul 5.doi: 10.1111/zph.12068.
  • Capua I, Cattoli G. Prevention and control of highly pathogenic avian influenza with particular reference to H5N1. Virus Res. 2013 Apr 21. doi:pii:S0168-1702(13)00116-0. 10.1016/j.virusres.2013.04.002.


The following web sites report all the activities carried out by the OIE/FAO reference laboratory for Avian Influenza and Newcastle disease. As well, information on the current regional, national and communitarian legislation which regulates all aspects related to the disease are reported; training courses, national and/or international research projects having the Reference center as coordinator or partner are mentioned, as well.


Director of National reference laboratory
Calogero Terregino
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OIE Expert – OIE reference laboratory for animal influenza and Newcastle disease
Isabella Monne
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Director of FAO reference centre for animal influenza and Newcastle disease
Giovanni Cattoli (on leave of absence)

Administrative office
Tel: +39 049 8084371
Fax: +39 049 8084360

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Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie
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