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Network of expertise on animal influenza

OIE - World Organization for Animal HealthFAO - Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Overview of OFFLU Technical Activities

OFFLU Technical Activities are made up of leading experts from the OFFLU network who work together in small discussion groups to address relevant animal influenza related technical problems. The topics for the Technical Activities are identified by the experts at regular OFFLU technical meetings, and represent pressing issues.

These Technical Activities aim to provide concrete outputs including guidance and recommendations, better diagnostic tests, and outputs from data analyses. Whilst at the same time strengthening links between experts within the OFFLU network and with the public health sector.

Some of the groups are set up on a temporary basis until the issue is resolved and others function on an ongoing basis to provide consultancy advice to OFFLU; several include experts from the public health sector (WHO).

There are currently 11 Technical Activities, each of which is coordinated by a group leader:

Applied epidemiology group*

Leader - Cristobal Zepeda (Centers for Epidemiology and Animal Health, Fort Collins, USA)

The OFFLU applied epidemiology group functions on an ongoing basis to provide expert epidemiology advice on pertinent animal influenza topics.

In April 2009 the group was mobilised to provide advice on surveillance for pandemic H1N1 2009 virus at the human - animal interface. The outputs from these discussions were further refined to develop a surveillance strategy for pandemic H1N1 2009 in pigs and poultry.

The group has developed a broad OFFLU animal influenza surveillance strategy document which provides an overview of the objectives, approaches, and benefits to conducting influenza surveillance in a range of systems across the animal kingdom. The group also undertook a questionnaire analysis to compare approaches to avian influenza surveillance in different regions.

Standard H5 antisera

Leader - Ian Brown (Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency, UK)

The objective of this group is to establish, through a collaborative exercise, a global reference standard antiserum for H5 avian influenza viruses.

Through collaboration between several OFFLU laboratories the group is attempting to select an antiserum which has a high specificity to H5 influenza virus and is broadly cross reactive with a diverse panel of virus strains from all geographical regions. Once the most suitable antiserum has been selected the group will chose a Reference Laboratory to undertake supply and production. A further round of validation will then be conducted.


Leader - Beverley Schmitt (National Veterinary Services Laboratories, Ames, USA)

The group provides biosafety guidance specific to handling influenza viruses in animal health laboratories. The guidance is balanced to provide a model that is fit for purpose in both well resourced and less well resourced laboratories.

So far the group has developed guidance on minimum biosafety requirements for handling highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses, and for handling pandemic H1N1 2009 viruses in veterinary laboratories.

Biosafety guidance for handling HPAI
Biosafety guidance on handling Pandemic H1N1


Leader - David Swayne (South East Poultry Research Laboratory, Georgia, USA)

The vaccination Technical Activity provides advice to OIE, FAO, and WHO on matters relating to the design and assessment of avian influenza vaccines and their use in poultry.

On the basis of the scientific studies and discussions held around two OFFLU technical projects (Indonesia and Egypt) on vaccine efficacy, the group has developed guidance to address selection of vaccine seed strains to meet the demands of antigenic drift in the field.

Guidance on updating AI vaccine seed strains
OFFLU Egypt project
OFFLU Indonesia project

Reference standards for PCR

Leader - Timm Harder (Friedrich-Loeffler Institute, Germany)

To develop an RNA standard, initially for H5 avian influenza.

Quality-assured performance of influenza A virus-targeted PCR assays requires a control of all steps of these procedures:

  • correct extraction of nucleic acids from clinical samples,
  • efficient transcription of RNA,
  • succesful amplification of cDNA.

This OFFLU technical activity seeks to generate a universally usable RNA standard which fulfils the above mentioned criteria. The approach is based on armoured RNA

Proficiency Testing / Ring trial *

Leader - Nichole Hines (National Veterinary Services Laboratories, Ames, USA) and Timm Harder (Friedrich-Loeffler Institute, Germany)

This technical activity aims to enhance diagnosis of avian influenza worldwide through consistency in diagnostic testing and develop guidelines for proficiency tests for harmonization purposes.

Diagnostic kits - information about commercially available kits

Leader - Marek Slomka (Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency, UK)

The group aims to compile an inventory of commercially available kits and, where manufacturers provide consent, to list information about their performance and fitness for purpose.

MTAs and Code of Conduct *

Leader - Peter Daniels (Australian Animal Health Laboratory, Geelong, Australia)

This group is working to develop a code of conduct for virus and information sharing (alternative to MTAs) focussing on collegial values and trust.

OFFLU research agenda

Leader - David Swayne (South East Poultry Research Laboratory, Georgia, USA)

This group provides a comprehensive list of research priorities for equine, avian and swine  influenza surveillance.


Leader - Giovanni Cattoli (IZSVe, Italy)

This group aims to develop/compile common OFFLU training materials including videos and disseminate information through the OFFLU website

OFFLU Swine influenza virus group *

Leader - Kristien Van Reeth (Ghent University, Belgium)

This group strengthens and coordinates influenza surveillance in pigs worldwide, harmonizes approaches to diagnostics and surveillance, and provides a platform for data exchange

* denotes technical activities that include public health (WHO) representation.

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