National Reference Centre for Fish, Crustacean and Mollusc Pathology
WOAH Reference Laboratory for Viral Encephalopathy and Retinopathy of Marine Fish

National reference laboratory for fish, crustacean and mollusc pathology / OIE reference laboratory for viral encephalopathy and retinopathy of marine fish

The Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie (IZSVe) was appointed as National Reference Centre for the Study and Diagnosis of Fish, Crustacean and Mollusc Pathology by the Italian Ministry of Health in 1994. More recently, accordingly with the European Union legislation, the Centre fulfills the role of three different National Referece Laboratories (NRL):

  • NRL for Fish Diseases
  • NRL for Mollusc Diseases
  • NRL for Crustacean Diseases

The Centre was also designated as WOAH Reference Laboratory For Viral Encephalopathy and Retinopathy of Marine Fish in 1999.

The laboratory for epidemiological studies of aquatic organisms was set up in 2012 to integrate and support the three reference laboratories for fish, crustaceans and molluscs.

An experimental aquarium authorized by the Ministry of Health has been established at the NRL, formed by independent tanks of various sizes for conducting experimental infection trials in both freshwater and seawater fish.

The staff is formed by experts from a variety of diagnostic sectors: virology, bacteriology, parasitology, histopathology, molecular biology and epidemiology, all with access to sophisticated modern instruments for correctly diagnosing known and emerging pathologies.

The Centre is currently taking part in several national and EU research projects. The NRL has been operating in conformity with UNI/EN/ISO 17025 standards since 2001.

Activities and servicesContacts

Activities and services

The Centre has years of experience in diagnosing aquatic animal pathologies, most notably salmonid diseases. Most activities do, however, involve pathologies affecting different species of fish and molluscs reared in the Centre’s area of jurisdiction (sea bass, sea bream, catfish, eels, cyprinids, mussels and clams). In-depth investigations are performed for WOAH-listed diseases and the methods described in the WOAH “Manual of Diagnostic Tests for Aquatic Animals” (9th ed.) and Council Directives 95/70/EC and 2001/183/EC, are routinely applied.

The Centre has been involved in the development of experimental vaccines for different bacterial fish diseases for many years, and an adjuvanted bacterin was recently successfully employed in field trials and later authorized by the Italian Ministry of Health to control Lactococcosis caused by Lactococcus garvieae, which is a major bacterial problem in the Italian trout industry. The Centre is also actively involved in the development of an efficacious vaccine against viral retino-encephalopathy, a disease causing a severe neuropathological condition in marine fish, as sea bass.

The Centre is involved in developing new techniques for identifying fish species, evaluating shelf-life and detecting viral foodborne diseases (HAV, Norovirus, enterovirus). It has extensive experience in the control of microbiological parameters of sea water for the classification of bivalve harvesting areas, according to national and EU legislation.

Main activities

  • diagnosis of mortality in reared/wild fish and molluscs;
  • confirmation of diagnoses of diseases made by other laboratories;
  • development of field surveillance plans for fish and mollusc diseases;
  • consulting services for veterinarians and farmers;
  • consulting services for official regional and national veterinary services;
  • development, standardization and distribution of diagnostic reagents;
  • development, standardization and distribution of diagnostic assays;
  • reference activity on finfish and mollusc diseases and controls for the Ministry of Health;
  • applied research on the diagnosis and control of emerging fish, crustacean, and mollusc diseases;
  • performance of ring trials;
  • training of official veterinary service inspectors and researchers from public institutes and universities;
  • teaching;
  • data collection for epidemiological studies;
  • georeferencing of farms and rivers in the territory of reference;
  • provision of expert advice for the Italian Ministry of Health on aquatic animal health issues;
  • research in national and international projects.

Diagnostic capabilities

Besides basic diagnostics (necroscopy, bacteriology, virology, histopathology), biomolecular techniques (real-time and RT-PCR, genome sequencing and phylogenetic characterization of strains, MALDI-TOF, pyrosequencing) are now routinely used at the Reference Centre for Fish, Mollusc and Crustacean diseases to correctly  diagnose and characterize isolated viral and bacterial strains.


Director of National Reference Laboratory for Fish, Crustacean and Mollusc Pathology
Giuseppe Arcangeli
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Director of WOAH Reference Laboratory for Viral Encephalopathy and Retinopathy of Marine Fish
Anna Toffan
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Phone: +39 049 8084117-388

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