How Barbados is preparing for Avian Influenza

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Following the recent outbreaks of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in North America and Canada, Barbados has increased wild bird surveillance and has put measures in place to improve biosecurity within the poultry industry. As part of their preparedness, they have also begun strengthening the capacity of their Veterinary Services Laboratory (VSL) to perform molecular diagnostics targeting avian influenza.

In October 2015, Dr. Julie-Ann Hinkson and Dr. Kelly Brathwaite of the VSL participated in a 6-week training programme at Cirad, Guadeloupe. Training was administered through Power Point presentations, reading material and hands-on practical learning, where the participants were taught how to handle and manipulate potentially infectious samples under increased biosecurity measures. They both successfully isolated the virus and on completion of their training, had gained sufficient knowledge and skills to enable setting up of a molecular diagnostics unit at the VSL. The training was facilitated by The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) through funding by the 10th European Development Funds SPS Project.



Dr. Hinkson and Dr. Brathwaite are currently in the process of implementing the procedures learnt at Cirad and have found that their biggest challenge so far has occurred with ordering molecular diagnostics supplies from abroad. Such products are not readily shipped to the Caribbean, making this a crucial part of the process because most of the supplies have to be shipped at temperatures as low as -20°C. Any delays in transit could therefore increase the risk of temperature abuse and could affect the quality of the shipment. Nevertheless, once all supplies have arrived under the recommended conditions, testing will begin and the unit at the VSL should be fully functional within the next few months.

By Kelly Brathwaite and Julie Ann Hinkson.


Dr. Julie-Ann Hinkson graduated from University of The West Indies School of Veterinary Medicine in 1997 with a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine (DVM). In 2015, she completed a Masters of Veterinary Studies (MVS) in Pathology at Massey University New Zealand with emphasis on PCR as a diagnostic tool. Dr. Hinkson is currently stationed at Veterinary Services Laboratory to augment the Avian Influenza (AI) detection program by testing for AI by Reverse Transcription-qPCR.


Dr. Kelly Brathwaite was recently awarded a PhD in Food Sciences from the University of Nottingham, where her research focused on biocontrol of the food-borne pathogen Campylobacter jejuni. During her studies, she was exposed to RNA-sequencing technology but the highlight of her PhD was publishing the genome sequence of the Campylobacter strain that she worked on for her thesis. She is currently assigned to the Veterinary Services Laboratory, Barbados aiming to establish veterinary molecular diagnostic testing and molecular detection of pathogens in food.

Photo credit at CIRAD Lab: Mrs. Claire Fritsch, Technician/Cirad-INRA


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