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Columbus Zoo Unveils Groundbreaking DNA Lab to Protect Elephants from Fatal Virus

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has opened a cutting-edge DNA testing lab that will help protect elephants from a potentially fatal virus. The laboratory performs PCR tests that can diagnose infectious diseases and provide genetic information quickly and accurately. Columbus Zoo is only the fourth U.S. zoological park to have an on-site lab.

Elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) is a virus found in both African and Asian elephants, and it can be fatal, particularly for younger elephants. Regular blood and trunk wash samples can alert veterinarians to an active virus, but a confirmed diagnosis requires a special DNA test. Until now, Columbus Zoo had to send blood samples to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo for definitive diagnosis.

With the new on-site lab, Columbus Zoo can run EEHV samples as often as needed and the time saved is invaluable for the elephants. The lab has tested blood samples on its higher-risk elephants twice a week and monitored trunk washes weekly on the entire herd.

Columbus Zoo is working with Smithsonian’s National Zoo and the national EEHV Advisory Group to collect data that will not only help elephants in their care but also help in the creation of an EEHV vaccine. The lab was made possible thanks to donations from the community and a donor family.

Columbus Zoo is committed to maintaining top-line veterinary facilities and is one of only six zoo facilities in the country to have computerized axial tomography (CAT) scanning technology. The new EEHV lab is a vital addition to their diagnostic capabilities for their animal patients and serves global conservation efforts.

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Mr Zoo News
The Editor-in-Chief of ZooReviews with a passion for zoos, conservation and species preservation. Mr Zoo has worked with zoos around the world to help develop enrichment programs, along with helping to build zoo volunteer organizations across South East Asia.

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