The University of Minnesota is hiring a Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory Director

The Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at the University of Minnesota is looking for a new leader to join their team who can help advance their mission to empower animal health professionals with accurate and timely diagnosis, innovative research and exceptional education.

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Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory names Dr. Rovira assistant director

Dr. Albert Rovira

The University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (MVDL) has named one of its diagnosticians assistant director. Albert Rovira, DVM, MS, PhD, assumed the post in July. He has been a large animal diagnostician with the MVDL since 2008. In his new role, Rovira will lead efforts to build stakeholder relationships and improve internal operations.

“Dr. Rovira has demonstrated strong leadership in developing and nurturing key relationships between the MVDL and other public and private organizations,” says Jerry Torrison, DVM, PhD, DACVPM, director of the MVDL. “He also has played a central role in our continuous efforts to improve the efficiency and quality of our operations.” 

Rovira has a proven track record in building successful collaborations between the MVDL and multiple partners, including research teams at the University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, to public organizations such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, and pharmaceutical companies. He has also been a leader in evaluating and advising clients on new diagnostic sampling techniques.

“The field of veterinary diagnostics is dynamic,” Rovira says, “and this ongoing change makes it fun to come to work each day to safeguard animal health from the constant threat of infectious disease.”

A native of Barcelona, Spain, Rovira earned his DVM and master’s from the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, and his PhD from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Since 2000, he has published more than 40 peer-reviewed articles and served as the lead- or co-investigator on more than 35 research projects. As a large animal diagnostician, Rovira consults with clients on a daily basis to equip them with the best diagnostic tools available, elucidate test results, and implement effective disease-fighting strategies.

The MVDL is the official laboratory of the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, is the only accredited laboratory in Minnesota, and is a Level I member of the United States Department of Agriculture National Animal Health Laboratory Network. It is a recognized national leader in providing rapid diagnosis of animal diseases, identifying emerging diseases, developing new diagnostic methods, and training diagnosticians and veterinarians.

With laboratories in St. Paul and Willmar, the MVDL performs more than 1 million procedures each year. The MVDL is poised to roll out new virus detection capabilities, and assist in developing new field-based diagnostic tests for Chronic Wasting Disease, the prion-based infectious disease emerging within Minnesota’s wild deer population.

Best practices to submit samples: new UMN VDL handouts available

If you are unsure about how to submit processing fluids or laryngeal swabs, the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory put together one-age illustrated handouts to guide you towards best practices for each commonly used sample type. Each one of them is available in a downloadable pdf format for convenience.

The handouts can be found on the VDL website.

A new diagnostic test to differentiate rotavirus subtypes

In this paper published in the Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation, PhD-candidate Talita Resende from Dr. Vannucci’s lab, shares a novel diagnostic technique to detect various rotavirus species using newly developed markers.

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Antimicrobial Resistance Projects: Towards Antimicrobial Stewardship

This article was written by Drs. CJ Gebhart, KE Olsen and JL Torrison from the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, University of Minnesota.

The emergence of antimicrobial resistance in humans, animals and the environment is a major global public health threat to both human and veterinary medicine.  Efforts to address this important issue involve government, industry, academia, and most notably, veterinary diagnostic laboratories (VDLs).  These efforts include surveillance to assess the extent resistance in human and animal pathogens and the development of policies to monitor and control antimicrobial resistance.

A collaborative effort involving the stakeholders listed above is the key to addressing this emerging threat of antimicrobial resistance and VDLs play major roles in these collaborative efforts.  As reported in a Commentary by GK Hendrix in the Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation in 2018, VDLs are the “nexus in the battle against antimicrobial resistance” (1). The University of Minnesota VDL Bacteriology Section performs almost 30,000 bacterial cultures annually, and most of the pathogenic isolates are archived for future use.  These uses include further testing (subtyping, virulence gene assays, serotyping, etc.), use in disease control efforts (autogenous vaccines, etc.), various research projects, and surveillance studies.  Almost 5,000 of these pathogenic bacteria are subjected to antimicrobial resistance testing annually, and these antimicrobial minimum inhibitory concentration data are archived for decades for further use.

Performing one of many antimicrobial susceptibility tests in the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, Bacteriology Section.

For our part in this aforementioned collaborative effort in antimicrobial stewardship, the University of Minnesota VDL is actively involved in two collaborative government-organized antimicrobial resistance projects as well as several collaborative academic research projects on antimicrobial resistance.  The common goal of the collaborative government projects is to determine the population and distribution of resistant bacteria in the U.S. 

The first of these projects is the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) project (2).  This project has 19 AAVLD-accredited laboratories throughout the U.S. and Canada participating with the objective of monitoring antimicrobial resistance profiles in animal pathogens routinely isolated from VDLs.  Ultimately, this project will result in a national centralized data collection and reporting process, using harmonized methods and antimicrobial resistance interpretation and reporting standards.  It aims to monitor data for trends in antimicrobial resistance phenotypes (and eventually genotypes) by identifying new or emerging resistance profiles, monitoring usefulness of antimicrobials over time, and reporting these trends to facilitate antimicrobial stewardship efforts. 

This USDA project began in January, 2018, and initially involved collection of isolates and antimicrobial resistance data from Escherischia coli (all species), Salmonella enterica (all species), Mannheimia haemolytica (cattle) and Staphylococcus intermedius group (companion animals) from routine VDL submissions.  A target of about 3,000 isolates will be collected from the participating VDLs annually and archived for further testing.  The antimicrobial testing data will be tracked and stored by USDA for each isolate and an annual report will be prepared for stakeholders.  This report will include antimicrobial resistance trends for antibiotics important for human and animal health and the distribution of minimum inhibitory concentrations for each antimicrobial monitored for each bacterial pathogen for each animal species included in the study.

The second of these collaborative antimicrobial resistance projects is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Center for Veterinary Medicine, Veterinary-Laboratory Investigation and Response Network (Vet-LIRN) project (3). This project has 21 AAVLD-accredited laboratories participating with the objective of performing surveillance of antimicrobial susceptibility testing results and whole genome sequencing of pathogens from the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System scope of interest (4). 

This FDA project began in January, 2017, and initially involved collection of isolates and data for three zoonotic bacterial pathogens, with several other bacterial species added to the project in July, 2018.  About 2,000 isolates have been collected since project inception, and the FDA has randomly selected about 200 of these isolates for whole genome sequencing.  The remaining isolates have been archived for future studies.  As an additional benefit related to this project, the University of Minnesota VDL received funds from FDA to purchase an Illumina iSeq Sequencer and participate in a collaborative project designed to increase the number and capabilities of network laboratories involved in the whole genome sequencing portion of this FDA project.  Standardization and harmonization of these bacterial genome sequencing abilities among participating laboratories is further designed to increase the network capacity and facilitate future outbreak investigations.

In summary, in support of antimicrobial stewardship efforts, the University of Minnesota VDL Bacteriology Section provides clinical isolates and antimicrobial susceptibility testing data for two collaborative government-initiated projects, one in collaboration with the USDA and the other with the FDA.  Further, the VDL as a whole provides leadership in antimicrobial stewardship on a daily basis, cooperating with disease outbreak investigations, collaborating with academic and industrial researchers, and educating veterinarians, clients and the public on issues of antimicrobial stewardship (1).


1.  Hendrix, GK. 2018.  The Role of Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories in the Fight Against Antimicrobial Resistance

2.  USDA. 2018. USDA’s Role in Combatting Antimicrobial Resistance. 

3.  FDA. 2018.  Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network