IZSAM Teramo G. Caporale

The National Serum Bank (NSB) was instituted in 2001 at IZSA&M by the National Reference Centre for Exotic Animal Diseases (CESME), during the Bluetongue (BTV) emergency, with the aim to store sera from cattle collected at national level according to the Bluetongue National Surveillance Plan.

Currently, more than 100.000 serum samples are stored in the NSB, including not only samples deriving from the BTV Surveillance Plan, but also field sera of different species collected from outbreaks of various disease such as Brucellosis, Dourine, West Nile and others or, sera from research activities involving animal infection trials.

The inclusion criteria established mainly consider the quantity of serum available for each sample and its quality (absence of hemolysis or lipemia), this in order to guarantee a good preservation of the material.

The collection and storage of sera in the NSB is performed by an automated instrument for sample dispensing that uses the “3S System” – Safe Sampling System (EsseMedical Ltd) (Figure 1). The instrument is controlled by the Safe Sampling Tracing Software (SSTS).

Briefly, the dispenser distributes 500 μl aliquots of serum in microtubes (Figure 2a). Each microtube is identified with a Data Matrix code (Figure 2b) that can be read by a Data Matrix code reader “SSR” (Safe Sampling Reader).

Microtubes are organized in a plate based monoblock system with 48 individually extractable wells (Safe Sampling Plate) and position of microtubes is identified using an alphanumeric grid (from A1 to H6). Single plates are identified by a number and a barcode, both correlated to the sera that they contain. Sera are freeze-dried directly in the plates and stored at -20°C into classifiers (Figure 4) located inside refrigerator cells (Figure 5). Information on single samples, plates and their storage are memorized in the SSTS. The traceability of the samples is guaranteed by a software developed by IZSA&M able to integrate the information of the 3S system about the identification of herd and animals.

Samples stored in NSB are used for retrospective serological surveys, validation of innovative serological tests and other epidemiological studies.