Australia's diagnostic capability to deal with any potential large-scale outbreak of Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is to increase, the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) reports this week. Laboratory technicians from State veterinary laboratories are being trained over the next two weeks in the latest diagnostic techniques for the livestock disease, to date Australia is FMD free, at CSIRO Livestock Industries' Australian Animal Health Laboratory. The training program has been made possible as part of an injection of $500,000 from the Federal Government in the May budget to enhance the nation's diagnostic capability. CSIRO's Dr Peter Daniels commented that Australian veterinarians and laboratory technicians that assisted in the massive UK outbreak of FMD have brought back valuable ideas on how to improve Australia's preparedness for a disaster of this sort. "We had been well prepared to diagnose the crucial first case at the start of an outbreak, but we recognise that an outbreak involving thousands of animals would tax our resources severely. "As a result of the UK experience, we realised that we needed more people trained up to help with the potentially massive work load, and we must also concentrate on streamlined systems for tracking and reporting diagnostic results,"he said. Twenty scientists, from State veterinary laboratories around Australia, will shortly receive one week's training at the Geelong laboratory. Chris Morrissy, CSIRO said each participant will then pass on their knowledge to other colleagues in the State laboratories. "If the worst happens and FMD does occur in Australia, these workshops mean we will have enough people trained to deal with a sizeable outbreak. We will also discuss the latest tools, like robotics to assist in stages of the testing, and streamlined processes to track and report on sample results such as bar-coding, which will make the task easier," he remarked. Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is a highly contagious viral disease of cloven-hoofed animals, such as pigs, cattle, sheep, goats and deer. While generally not lethal to adult animals, FMD can cause significant production losses and would halt exports of livestock and livestock products from Australia.