The Transboundary Animal Diseases facility is a unique, strategic facility designed to enable work to be conducted safely on highly contagious diseases of animals, particularly foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). It commenced operation in 1984 and has since established an international reputation as the most sophisticated FMD laboratory in Africa. It presently houses an Office International des Epizooties (OIE) reference centre for African swine fever (ASF) and Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD).
The facility has a wide range of sophisticated biological and engineering containment measures in order to prevent the escape of viruses. It is unusual in that it was designed to provide a diagnostic and research facility as well as a plant for vaccine production. Most other FMD laboratories around the world are either exclusively diagnostic/research institutes or vaccine production plants.
In 2010 the ARC embarked on a project to develop a new state-of-the-art production process. Modern vaccine production uses the suspension production process, as opposed to the obsolete monolayer production process previously used at the ARC. Suspension production process technology has significant advantages over monolayer production process in terms of in production volume, contamination control and product quality. It has become the current standard best practice in the production of FMD vaccine. Previously, the ARC produced FMD vaccines using historic isolates adapted to be used in MPPS. The ability of some of these vaccine strains to protect vaccinated animals against challenge were found to be inadequate. To ensure that the new generation of vaccines are matched to the circulating field strains, isolates collected from recent FMD outbreaks were adapted to the production process. In addition to selecting isolates appropriate for use in South Africa, additional strains were also adapted based on the requirements of the broader SADC region. This effectively means that by using the newly adapted strains in the production of FMD vaccine the ARC will be able to supply a product tailored to the specific needs of the client, a service currently not available within the region.