Regional Diagnostic Virology Services (RDVS) at AVC Diagnostic Services

General Information

Regional Diagnostic Virology Services (RDVS) is a major component of AVC Diagnostic Services at the Atlantic Veterinary College. It was opened for service in 1988, two years after the Atlantic Veterinary College was established. Prior to this, the diagnostic virology testing for the Atlantic Region was performed by Agriculture and AgriFood Canada in Sackville, New Brunswick where traditional virology techniques such as virus isolation were used. The RDVS laboratory at AVC was developed and established through the financial support of the veterinary laboratories and agriculture department of the four Atlantic Provinces (New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island) through grant and a fee for service arrangement until 2013.

The virology laboratory provides diagnostic virology services to AVC’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital and to provincial laboratories, pathologists, and veterinary practitioners primarily in Atlantic Canada. The RDVS laboratory initially offered diagnostic virology services for food animals (bovine, porcine, avian, caprine, ovine), equine and furbearing animals but has since expanded to include services for companion animals and wildlife.  In 1993, the RDVS laboratory developed and established virology services for aquatic species, initially for the Atlantic Region, but has since expanded nationally and globally.

The RDVS laboratory has been an accredited laboratory since 1989 to perform CFIA-RCE (Canadian Food Inspection Agency Retrovirology Centre of Expertise) accredited testing for Equine Infectious Anemia Virus (EIA).  In 2006, the RDVS laboratory became a member of the Canadian Animal Health Laboratory Network (CAHLN) and subsequently the Canadian Animal Health Surveillance Network (CAHSN).  Through CAHSN, the laboratory became accredited to perform testing for Foreign Animal Diseases (FAD) and other select public health agents.

In 2014 the RDVS laboratory achieved ISO/IEC 17025:2015 certification by the Standard Council of Canada.

The RDVS laboratory offers a wide range of diagnostic virology tests for mammalian species from traditional methods such as virus isolation to the established rapid test methods such as:

  • Molecular Testing (Real-Time and Traditional RT-PCR and PCR)
  • Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA),
  • Fluorescent Antibody Test (FAT)

The requests for traditional testing such as virus isolation has gradually decreased over the years as it is quite laborious, expensive, and has an extended turn-around-time of 21-40 days.  In many cases, molecular testing, FAT and ELISA have replaced virus isolation as veterinarians can usually have results within 1-3 days. Virus isolation for mammalian species is still available on a case-by-case basis especially for situations such as undiagnosed disease outbreaks, legal issues, etc.  Virus Isolation still remains as the “Gold Standard” for aquatic species with 7 different cell lines available to choose from. Molecular diagnostic tests such as PCR, RT-PCR, and RT-rtPCR for specific virus(es) have also been developed and established.


Requirements for Sample Submission

All specimen(s) for the RDVS laboratory must be submitted through a licensed veterinarian, provincial veterinary laboratory, or select organizations within the region. The RDVS laboratory does not accept specimen(s) submitted by an individual owner. The submitting veterinarian becomes responsible for the test(s) requested and fees associated with each submission.

Specimen(s) submitted for testing to the RDVS laboratory, including agents isolated and any intellectual property that can arise from the processing of specimens, become the property of UPEI.  Arrangement should be made in writing at the time of submission if there are any issues or concerns.


General Virology Submission Forms

There are three virology submission forms which can be downloaded and printed from the AVC Diagnostic Services website. They are as follows:

  1. Food and Fur Bearing Animal Virology Submission Form
  2. Companion Animal Virology Submission Form
  3. Aquatic – Fin Fish Submission Form

The appropriate RDVS submissions form(s), must accompany each specimen. The form(s) must include the names of the referring veterinarian and the veterinary clinic/organization, as well as the name of the owner. It must also include the patient’s data – including species, breed, age and sex, a concise clinical history as well as the sample type and tests requested. Please type, print, or write clearly. Forms can be found on this website or directly from our laboratory.

Samples with incomplete or inconsistent submission forms will not be processed. Laboratory staff are mandated to seek clarification from the submitter prior to processing which can lead to delays in reporting results.


Specimen Selection and Collection

Clinical virology specimens should be collected as soon as possible following the onset of illness. Refer to the AVC diagnostic services “available tests” section on our website if further information regarding specimen selection is required.

All specimens must be properly identified and labelled. The specimen must be clearly labelled with the animal identifier, the owners name, or the laboratory or hospital reference number. This information must match what is indicated on the sample submission form.


Virus Transport Media:

Swabs, such as fecal, cloacal, oropharyngeal, nasal, conjunctival etc., submitted for viral testing require the use of viral transport media. Viral transport media can be requested from the RDVS Laboratory by calling 902-566-0877.   Instructions for collection, storage and shipment will be provided by the laboratory upon purchase. The current charge per vial of transport media is $4.50, but pricing is subject to change without notice.

Swabs submitted in bacterial culture are not a suitable substitute for viral transport media and should not be used.



The RDVS Laboratory is ISO/IEC 17025 accredited to perform CFIA’s “ELISA test for the Detection of Antibodies to Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA)”.

Veterinarians must be accredited by CFIA under the EIA control program prior to collecting and submitting specimen for EIA testing. Specimen that are collected and submitted by non-accredited veterinarians will be rejected by the laboratory.  Specimen must be tested within 3 weeks of the sampling date, or the sample will be rejected by the laboratory.

The submitted specimen, either whole blood or serum, must be accompanied by one of the following forms:

  1. A completed electronic submission form submitted via the electronic submission and certificate issuance system, Global Vet Link (GVL). Veterinarians are requested to include a printed copy of the electronic submission form with the specimen during shipment.
  2. A completed CFIA form (CFIA/ACIA 3937). Veterinarians are encouraged to use Global Vet Link for electronic submission and certificate issuance of EIA Veterinarians who do not wish to use Global Vet Link must apply and receive approval for exemption with CFIA to continue using the CFIA submission form (CFIA/ACIA 3937).  Veterinarians that are exempt from using the digital form can request CFIA/ACIA 3937 forms from their respective CFIA District Offices.

Please ensure that all necessary information is provided to ensure that the testing can be completed in a timely manner.  If too much information is missing from the submission form, then the laboratory is required to request both a new specimen and  a new duly completed submission form.


Virus Isolation:

Specimen(s) submitted for Virus Isolation (VI) must be labelled with the origin of the specimen(s) (e.g. nasal swabs, name of tissue or name of pooled tissues, etc.). The specimens for virus isolation should be collected aseptically and should be refrigerated promptly.

Viral Transport Media can be requested from the RDVS laboratory for the submissions of nasal swabs, conjunctival swabs, etc. Swabs in Bacterial Culture are NOT suitable submissions for Virus Isolation as the viability of the sample cannot be guaranteed. If specimens cannot be sent within 24 hours of sampling (e.g. weekend), then they should be stored at -70°C to -80°C or 4°C. . Do not freeze specimens for virus isolation at -20°C.


Molecular Diagnostic Test:

For molecular diagnostic tests, please use viral transport medium for feces, intestinal content, nasal sinuses, conjunctival and laryngopharyngeal specimens. For tissues, please collect as aseptically as possible and place the tissue in a sterile, leak-proof container.



A minimum of 1.0 mL of serum is required for each serology test.  Please include, when possible, an additional 1.0mL of serum for each additional test.

Collect whole blood in a red-top vacutainer and allow the samples to clot at room temperature. Release the clot using a sterile applicator stick and centrifuge the sample.  Transfer the serum supernatant to a sterile tube. If a centrifuge is not available, remove the clot and set aside the serum. When centrifuged, 10.0 mL of whole blood should yield approximately 3-5 mL of serum.

For serodiagnosis, paired serum samples are required. The acute sample is collected at the onset of the illness and the convalescent sample is collected 2-3 weeks later. Acute sample(s) should be stored at -20°C while waiting to collect the convalescent sample.  Paired serum samples must be clearly identified as acute (A) or convalescent (C).

We recognize that there are situations where submitting a single sample is necessary. Please specify the reason(s) in your submission form, e.g. sale, animal has died, determination of vaccination titer, etc.


Fluorescent Antibody Test (FAT):

The tissues collected for FAT should be refrigerated or frozen as soon as possible after collection. Place the tissue in a sterile leak-proof container. The name of the organ(s) must be clearly marked on the container. Around 3 to 5 cm tissue(s) should be collected. Please be sure to sample a selection of tissue that includes both lesions and the surrounding healthy tissues.  For smaller animals and birds, include the whole organs.


Packing and Shipment of Specimens for Virology Testing

Leak-proof primary containers containing feces or tissues (reinforced with tape, if needed), vials of viral transport medium and tube(s) with blood or serum should be placed in a suitable secondary container prior to disinfection. Multiple tissues can be placed in the same bag, as long as they are from the same animal and there is sufficient absorbent material to absorb in case of a leak. Disinfect the outside of the secondary leak-proof container before final packaging.

The specimen(s) should be placed in a refrigerated container (Styrofoam box) with ice packs and should be surrounded with sufficient absorbent material to absorb in case of leaks.