Gulf Biocontainment Unit – Aquatic Animal Health Laboratory

The Gulf Biocontainment Unit – Aquatic Animal Health Laboratory (GBU-AAHL) is located in a Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) laboratory in Charlottetown, P.E.I. and is affiliated with DFO's Gulf Fisheries Centre. The GBU-AAHL contributes to research and diagnostic test development, scientific advice, and testing related to high-risk pathogens. In 2009, the state-of-the-art GBU-AAHL received official certification as a level three (L3) containment laboratory for live aquatic animal work making it one of a few aquatic animal biocontainment laboratories in the world that can undertake studies with exotic and serious aquatic animal disease causing agents. This certification was a critical step toward enabling DFO to safely conduct research into virtually any aquatic animal disease or pathogen, including the ability to study aquatic animal disease interactions in a controlled environment and to investigate new or emerging diseases. It is the only NAAHLS facility approved for live trials with exotic pathogens.

Diagnostic tests developed and validated by GBU-AAHL are ultimately transferred to the three diagnostic System laboratories of the NAAHLS where they are integrated into routine diagnostic use.

The GBU-AAHL lab is a modern facility with sophisticated back-up systems to support lab bench work, a variety of different animal holding systems and extremely stringent sterilization processes for lab waste water and lab-generated waste material. Experimental challenge models developed in the GBU-AAHL facility lab are useful when there is no source of naturally affected animals available for use in test development and validation. Animal holding facilities can operate a variety of conditions required for optimal animal care including freshwater though to full saltwater systems at very cold to warm environments (5 – 35 °C) with controlled lighting and closely monitored (and adjustable) water quality parameters. Shellfish, finfish, and bivalves can be held at GBU-AAHL.

For more information: Canadian Food Inspection Agency Containment Standards for Facilities Handling Aquatic Animal Pathogens