• General information
  • Collection and submission of specimens
  • Field investigations
  • Controlled and notifiable animal diseases
  • List of services and diagnostic tests
  • Bacteriology
  • Entomology
  • Feed analysis
  • Helminthology
  • Pathology
  • Protozoology/rickettsial diseases
  • Virology

General Information

Available services and diagnostic tests [pdf] performed by the Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute (ARC-OVI) are grouped and tabulated in accordance with the organisation of specialities within the ARC-OVI. Diseases, which appear under their common names, and tests, are listed alphabetically within each section. Under "collection and submission of specimens" additional information is given on samples that are required for virology, especially when foot-and-mouth disease, African swine fever or rabies is suspected.

Individual services or tests can be located quickly by using the key words in the index at the end of this manual.

Test Time

"Test time" as defined in this manual represents the number of working days expected to elapse from the day the samples are received at the ARC-OVI to the day on which the results become available. Often a range of days is given because tests frequently have to be carried out in batches to be cost effective.


Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute (ARC-OVI)

For enquiries regarding submissions, results or other information please contact the Registration Office - + 27 (0) 12 529-9274/3/2. The Institute is open Monday to Friday from 7h30 to 16h00. The telephone number at all hours is + 27 (0) 12 529-9111. Results of diagnostic tests will be notified by telephone or fax when possible, and will be followed by a written report.

Transboundary Animal Diseases Programme (TADP)

For enquiries concerning Foot-and-mouth disease and African swine fever, please dial + 27 (0) 12 529-9592/84 or + 27 (0) 12 529-9274/3/2. The TADP is manned 24 hours per day; the after hours number is + 27 (0) 12 529-9579 (security office).


Collection and Submission of Specimens

  • Specimens

An accurate diagnosis depends on the availability of proper specimens. It is therefore essential that the specimens should be collected and submitted as outlined in this manual. They should be sent to the ARC-OVI as quickly as possible and, when necessary, a courier service must be used. Specimens can be submitted after hours, preferably with prior notification of the section involved, and in such cases they should be delivered at the security office. A pathologist is available after hours to attend emergency cases and can be contacted telephonically by dialling +27 (0) 12 529-9111.

Specimens for the diagnosis of Foot-and-mouth disease and African swine fever (see also below) must always be delivered or sent directly to the Transboundary Animal Diseases Programme (TADP)

Specimens must be kept cool during transport and should be refrigerated first at 4°C and then sent packed on frozen cool packs (see appropriate tables).

Fish should be sent alive where possible.

Suitable containers for the submission of specimens as well as swabs for bacteriological cultures and virological isolations are available from the OVI. For further information please contact the Registration Office + 27 (0) 12 529- 9274/3/2.


a) The address for all submissions (except for Foot-and-mouth disease and African swine fever) is:

Senior Manager Research: Animal Health and Protection
ARC-Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute
Private Bag X05
Onderstepoort, 0110
Republic of South Africa

b) The address to use for the submission of specimens for the diagnosis of Foot-and-mouth disease and African swine fever is:

Transboundary Animal Diseases Programme


Private Bag X5
Republic of South Africa

  • Submission forms

Specimens submitted for Brucella serology must be accompanied by the "Brucella CA5 form" and for dourine by the "Dourine test and agreement form". On both these forms the name, farm address and telephone number of the owner must be indicated and the dourine agreement must be signed and witnessed as any legal document.

Brain samples submitted for the fluorescent antibody test (FAT) for the rabies virus and/or serum samples for the serology test for rabies antibody titres, must be accompanied by the following forms:

  • Rabies Specimen Submission form [pdf]
  • Submission form for rabies neutralising antibody test [pdf]
  • Dourine test and agreement form [Word Document]

    the forms are also available from your nearest State Veterinarian

These and the general submission form [Word Document] and Animal History Form [pdf] for FMD samples as an addendum to the General submission form are also available from the Diagnostic Registration Office + 27 (0) 12 529-9274/3/2. Should the general submission form not be available, the specimens must be accompanied by a covering letter. This letter should include relevant information concerning the owner, name and district of the farm, person responsible for invoice, animal(s) involved, history, symptoms of illness and post mortem lesions.

Speciman registration: Contact person, Dr Laura Lopez-Rebollar, email: lopezl@arc.agric.za

BSE Surveillance

Specimens submitted for BSE must be accompanied by the "Submission forms". Both these forms must be completed. [pdf]

General Information on Sample Submission

It may be necessary, to provide additional cooling in the remote and hotter areas of the country, to ensure that, samples reach the laboratory in good condition. Samples need to reach the laboratory within 2 days of collection and no later than 12:00 on Fridays.
Laboratory closed: Weekends and Public holidays.

Virology: General Requirements

Specimen for virus isolation:

Specimens should be collected early in the acute phase of the illness. They should be fresh, and if possible collected aseptically with no preservative or fixative added. Swabs taken from clinically ill animals should be placed directly into a viral transport medium. These specimens should be refrigerated, not frozen, as soon as collected. Note that swabs for Chlamydia isolation must be placed in a chlamydia transport medium.

Serological diagnosis:

For many diseases it is imperative that paired serum samples be submitted for detecting viral infections since only the demonstration of a significant increase in antibody level (generally a four-old rise in titre) is meaningful. The first sample should be collected early in the acute phase and the second taken during convalescence three weeks later. The first sample can be retained frozen until the follow-up sample has been taken and they can then be submitted, clearly marked, at the same time. In the case of congenital deformities in neonatal calves and lambs as well as the weak-calf syndrome pre-colostral serum is essential. Paired serum samples have only limited value in the case of abortions unless an abortion storm is involved.


Commercially available vacuum tubes should be used, and heparin rather than EDTA is preferred as anticoagulant. Blood should be kept at 4°C (not frozen), should be taken during the febrile stage of the illness and should be submitted on frozen cool packs as soon as possible.

Blood for serological testing should be collected in red top vacuum tubes and allowed to clot at room temperature (between 18-24°C). If there is an unavoidable delay (more than 5 days) before dispatch or a long transit time, the clot should be removed as aseptically as possible. It is preferable to decant the serum into a new tube. Serum should be stored at 4°C and sent to the laboratory, packed on frozen cool packs.

Faecal specimens for electron microscopy:

Either faeces or colonic contents may be submitted; rectal swabs are not suitable. Specimens must be collected within hours of the onset of diarrhoea and, where possible, directly from the animal. The specimens should be kept at 4°C and sent on frozen cool packs.