Emilie Laurin – ECD – Ireland

With the CERC ECD Grant I was enabled to participate in the 18th International Conference on Diseases of Fish and Shellfish in Belfast, UK (September 4-8, 2017). There, I presented a collaborative project between CERC and Australian aquatic scientists, providing results from a systematic literature search and proposing guidelines for using pooled samples for surveillance studies of aquatic-animal diseases and diagnostic test estimates. For surveillance purposes (presence or absence of pathogens), testing of pooled rather than individual specimens is cost- and time- efficient, especially with low infection prevalence and high target-analyte concentration. However, using pooling methods raises important questions about methodology and epidemiological-unit effect on the interpretation of diagnostic accuracy estimates. Co-authors for the project have agreed upon guidelines to help interpret the effects of pooling, pool size, load, and prevalence on the diagnostic sensitivity of the test being used. The preferred design to analyze these effects is field studies using parallel testing of the same specimens, both individually and in randomly created pools that mimic real-life surveillance scenarios, supported with cost data. By presenting this project at the conference, we were able to access networking opportunities for expanded collaboration and support for empirical data from various Canadian and international aquatic scientists. Following empirical-data analyses, next steps include disseminating results and proposed guidelines in a peer-reviewed manuscript, and including a practical tool for applying pooling guidelines that can be endorsed by peer-reviewed journals and research centers.

Belfast’s iconic fish statue located at the Waterfront Hall (conference venue)