It’s normal to have many questions and concerns before switching a facility to environmental health monitoring. Below are answers to the most commonly asked questions our group encounters.
Is there really enough data on this?
There are more than 20 publications supporting environmental monitoring from more than 7 years.
Won’t switching cost us a lot more money?
In fact, in some cases, it may be less expensive to conduct environmental monitoring (Luchins, 2020). Be sure to factor in the cost of housing & caring for sentinel rodents.
I don’t have time to retrain my staff & develop a new program.
Although there may be an initial time investment, there are time savings once implemented (Luchins, 2020).
Will other institutions accept our rodents?
Reports from institutions currently using only environmental monitoring indicate that yes, other institutions will accept their rodents. In fact, other institutions recognize the increased sensitivity of this type of health monitoring program.
Will there be false positives or ambiguities?
This is possible. Always investigate unexpected results further.
Will there be residual nucleic acid after rack washing?
There may be some for Helicobacter spp. or MNV though may not (Mailhot, 2019). If seen, you may need to wash racks more than once or even scrub plenums to remove residual nucleic acids.
What about missing new & emerging pathogens?
This problem can be helped by performing histopathology on any colony animals with unusual phenotypes/signs/illness.
What should I do if I find something?
This may depend on the pathogen. Ask your diagnostic laboratory what they recommend. They may recommend testing colony animals by cage perimeter swabs, direct fur swabs, blood, or feces to narrow down positive cages. Alternatively they may suggest pooled plenum swabbing for confirmatory testing
If you suspect a false positive or residual nucleic acid, then move cages to a clean rack & re-swab in 2-4 weeks.
Consider submitting to a different diagnostic lab for confirmatory testing.