Lab Matters Winter 2018 | Page 12

from the bench Alaska Puts NGS into Action for Canine Parvovirus Outbreak By Kim Krisberg, writer In Alaska, dog-powered transportation is both a necessity of life and a major economic driver. Sporting events like the world-famous Iditarod can pump millions into the local economy. So when an outbreak of highly contagious canine parvovirus made headlines in 2016 — just weeks before the Iditarod race set off in early March — it was a big deal. kennel of almost 20 dogs and her kids are junior mushers. After hearing concerns that the 2016 outbreak could be due to a particularly virulent strain of parvovirus, Parker thought it was an ideal opportunity to help out the local community and test a promising new technology inside the public health laboratory: next generation sequencing (NGS). The news piqued Jayme Parker’s interest both personally and professionally. Parker, MSPH, MB(ASCP), virology lab manager at the Alaska State Virology Laboratory in Fairbanks, has been active in the mushing community for nearly two decades — her family has its own “People were really worried because so many dogs were dying,” Parker said. “We thought if we could sequence as much of the genome as possible, it could help alleviate any concerns that this was a novel strain. Or maybe discover that it was after all.” Of course, the Alaska State Virology Lab doesn’t typically provide animal disease testing unless it’s associated with human exposures, such as rabies testing. In fact, testing for canine parvovirus is completely out of the ordinary for the lab — “it’s out of our wheelhouse, for sure,” Parker noted. Still, said Jack Chen, PhD, MB(ASCP), the lab’s deputy director, answering questions surrounding the parvovirus outbreak would be an ideal opportunity to explore the technology’s capacity to impact human health as well. With funding support from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, where the lab is physically housed, the scientists received specimens collected in two Jayme Parker leads her team along a backcountry trail. Photo: Mike Parker 10 LAB MATTERS Winter 2018 PublicHealthLabs @APHL