New staining instruments save time and money while producing quality slides for detecting scrapie and chronic wasting disease

Diagnostic Lab Supervisor Stephanie Weaver (left) and assistant Dawn Herron load slides into the histopathology section’s new staining instruments.

TVMDL’s College Station lab recently upgraded the technology it uses to stain microscope slides for pathologists to examine for evidence of scrapie, chronic wasting disease and other pathogens.

The lab has added two new instruments – known as immunohistochemistry stainers – that can process 30 slides in about two and a half hours.

The stainers support TVMDL’s role in a U.S. Department of Agriculture program to identify cases of scrapie and chronic wasting disease.

“Without these instruments, we couldn’t stay in the program,” said Stephanie Weaver, diagnostic lab supervisor in the histopathology section.

The instruments can can stain more slides in less time than technicians can process by hand.

Scrapie is a fatal, degenerative disease affecting the central nervous system of sheep and goats. Chronic wasting disease affects white-tailed deer, moose and mule deer in a similar way.

In July 2012, TVMDL pathologists diagnosed the first cases of chronic wasting disease in Texas deer from samples taken from two mule deer in far West Texas. The National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, confirmed the diagnosis.

Built by Ventana Medical Systems, Inc., of Tucson, Ariz., the stainers replace four smaller instruments that were outdated and difficult to maintain.

“The new instruments cost $75,000 each,” Weaver said.  “That’s a good deal for us. They usually go for more than $100,000.”

The automated stainers pay for themselves in labor costs, she said. They can stain more slides in less time than technicians can process by hand.

“The instruments are also more accurate,” Weaver said. “They eliminate human error and give us high quality slides more consistently.”