Swiss Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office

Bern, Switzerland

Swiss Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office

Bern, Switzerland
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News Article | December 2, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

The "reproducibility crisis" in biomedical research has led to questions about the scientific rigor in animal research, and thus the ethical justification of animal experiments. In research publishing in the Open Access journals PLOS Biology and PLOS ONE on December 2nd, 2016, researchers from the University of Bern have assessed scientific rigor in animal experimentation in Switzerland. The study, commissioned by the Swiss Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO), found widespread deficiencies in the reporting of experimental methodology. In a first step, PhD student Lucile Vogt and postdoc Thomas Reichlin from the Division of Animal Welfare at the Vetsuisse Faculty in Bern screened all 1,277 approved applications for animal experiments in Switzerland in 2008, 2010 and 2012, as well as a random sample of 50 scientific publications resulting from studies described in the applications. The materials were assessed to determine whether seven basic methods that can help combat experimental bias were reported (including randomization, blinding, and sample size calculation). Appropriate use and understanding of these methods is a prerequisite for unbiased, scientifically valid results, says lead author Prof. Hanno Würbel, director of the Division of Animal Welfare. As published in their PLOS Biology study, explicit evidence that these methods were used either in the applications for animal experiments or in the subsequent publications was scarce. For example, fewer than 20% of applications and publications mentioned whether a sample size calculation had been performed (8% in applications, 0% in publications), whether the animals had been assigned randomly to treatment groups (13% in applications, 17% in publications), and whether outcome assessment had been conducted blind to treatment (3% in applications, 11% in publications). Animal experiments are authorized based on the explicit understanding that they will provide significant new knowledge and that animals will suffer no unnecessary harm. Thus, scientific rigor is a fundamental prerequisite for the ethical justification of animal experiments. Based on this study, the current practice of authorizing animal experiments appears to rest on an assumption of scientific rigor, rather than on evidence that it is applied. The authors of this study recommend more education and training in good research practice and scientific integrity for all those involved in this process. Although the initial results found that fewer than 20 percent of applications and publications used methods to control for bias, that didn't necessarily mean that more than 80 percent of animal studies failed to include methods to combat bias, and therefore use animals for potentially inconclusive research. "It is possible that the researchers did use these methods but did not mention them in their applications and publications," says study director Hanno Würbel. "So we decided to ask the researchers." The researchers used an online survey for all 1,891 animal researchers registered in the central online information system of the FSVO who were involved with ongoing experiments. Among other questions, researchers were asked what bias-reducing methods they normally use when conducting animal experiments and which of these they had explicitly reported in their latest scientific publication. According to the researchers' responses, as published in their PLOS ONE study, the use of methods against bias is considerably higher than reported in the animal research applications and publications. 86% of the participants claimed to assign animals randomly to treatment groups, but only 44% answered that they had reported this in their latest publication. The same applies to the other measures, for example, for sample size calculation (69% claimed to be doing this, but only 18% say they reported it in their latest publication) and for blinded outcome assessment (47% vs. 27%). Taken together, the researchers draw two conclusions from these results: on the one hand, reporting in animal research applications or publications may underestimate the use of bias-reducing methods. On the other hand, the researchers may overestimate their use of appropriate methods. "We found considerably fewer publications with explicit evidence of the use of measures against risks of bias than claimed by the researchers", says Würbel. For example, 44% of the participants claimed to have reported randomization in their latest publication, but Würbel's team found evidence of randomization in only 17% of publications. In your coverage please use this URL to provide access to the freely available article in PLOS Biology: http://journals. and this URL to provide access to the freely available article in PLOS ONE: http://journals. Citations: Vogt L, Reichlin TS, Nathues C, Würbel H (2016) Authorization of Animal Experiments Is Based on Confidence Rather than Evidence of Scientific Rigor. PLoS Biol 14(12): e2000598. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.2000598 Reichlin TS, Vogt L, Würbel H (2016) The Researchers' View of Scientific Rigor--Survey on the Conduct and Reporting of In Vivo Research. PLoS ONE 11(12): e0165999. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0165999 Funding: Swiss Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO) https:/ (grant number 2.13.01). LV and TSR were fully funded through this grant. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


Struchen R.,Veterinary Public Health Institute | Hadorn D.,Swiss Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office | Wohlfender F.,Veterinary Public Health Institute | Wohlfender F.,University of Bern | And 4 more authors.
Epidemiology and Infection | Year: 2016

Clinical observations made by practitioners and reported using web-and mobile-based technologies may benefit disease surveillance by improving the timeliness of outbreak detection. Equinella is a voluntary electronic reporting and information system established for the early detection of infectious equine diseases in Switzerland. Sentinel veterinary practitioners have been able to report cases of non-notifiable diseases and clinical symptoms to an internet-based platform since November 2013. Telephone interviews were carried out during the first year to understand the motivating and constraining factors affecting voluntary reporting and the use of mobile devices in a sentinel network. We found that non-monetary incentives attract sentinel practitioners; however, insufficient understanding of the reporting system and of its relevance, as well as concerns over the electronic dissemination of health data were identified as potential challenges to sustainable reporting. Many practitioners are not yet aware of the advantages of mobile-based surveillance and may require some time to become accustomed to novel reporting methods. Finally, our study highlights the need for continued information feedback loops within voluntary sentinel networks. © Copyright Cambridge University Press 2016.


Struchen R.,University of Bern | Reist M.,Swiss Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office | Zinsstag J.,Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute | Vial F.,University of Bern
Preventive Veterinary Medicine | Year: 2015

Systems for the identification and registration of cattle have gradually been receiving attention for use in syndromic surveillance, a relatively recent approach for the early detection of infectious disease outbreaks. Real or near real-time monitoring of deaths or stillbirths reported to these systems offer an opportunity to detect temporal or spatial clusters of increased mortality that could be caused by an infectious disease epidemic. In Switzerland, such data are recorded in the "Tierverkehrsdatenbank" (TVD). To investigate the potential of the Swiss TVD for syndromic surveillance, 3 years of data (2009-2011) were assessed in terms of data quality, including timeliness of reporting and completeness of geographic data. Two time-series consisting of reported on-farm deaths and stillbirths were retrospectively analysed to define and quantify the temporal patterns that result from non-health related factors.Geographic data were almost always present in the TVD data; often at different spatial scales. On-farm deaths were reported to the database by farmers in a timely fashion; stillbirths were less timely. Timeliness and geographic coverage are two important features of disease surveillance systems, highlighting the suitability of the TVD for use in a syndromic surveillance system. Both time series exhibited different temporal patterns that were associated with non-health related factors. To avoid false positive signals, these patterns need to be removed from the data or accounted for in some way before applying aberration detection algorithms in real-time. Evaluating mortality data reported to systems for the identification and registration of cattle is of value for comparing national data systems and as a first step towards a European-wide early detection system for emerging and re-emerging cattle diseases. © 2015 Elsevier B.V.


Schmutz C.,Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute | Schmutz C.,University of Basel | Mausezahl D.,Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute | Mausezahl D.,University of Basel | And 3 more authors.
Eurosurveillance | Year: 2016

Clinical isolates of Campylobacter spp. and Salmonella spp. are notifiable in Switzerland. In 1995, Campylobacter replaced Salmonella as the most frequently reported food-borne pathogen. We analysed notification data (1988–2013) for these two bacterial, gastrointestinal pathogens of public health importance in Switzerland. Notification rates were calculated using data for the average resident population. Between 1988 and 2013, notified campylobacteriosis cases doubled from 3,127 to 7,499, while Salmonella case notifications decreased, from 4,291 to 1,267. Case notifications for both pathogens peaked during summer months. Campylobacter infections showed a distinct winter peak, particularly in the 2011/12, 2012/13 and 2013/14 winter seasons. Campylobacter case notifications showed more frequent infection in males than females in all but 20–24 year-olds. Among reported cases, patients’ average age increased for campylobacteriosis but not for salmonellosis. The inverse trends observed in case notifications for the two pathogens indicate an increase in campylobacteriosis cases. It appears unlikely that changes in patients’ health-seeking or physicians’ testing behaviour would affect Campylobacter and Salmonella case notifications differently. The implementation of legal microbiological criteria for foodstuff was likely an effective means of controlling human salmonellosis. Such criteria should be decreed for Campylobacter, creating incentives for producers to lower Campylobacter prevalence in poultry. © 2016, European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). All rights reserved.


Diston D.,Swiss Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office | Ebdon J.E.,University of Brighton | Taylor H.D.,University of Brighton
Photochemistry and Photobiology | Year: 2014

Ultraviolet-B radiation (280-320 nm) has long been associated with the inactivation of microorganisms in the natural environment. Determination of the environmental inactivation kinetics of specific indicator organisms [used as tools in the field of microbial source tracking (MST)] is fundamental to their successful deployment, particularly in geographic regions subject to high levels of solar radiation. Phage infecting Bacteroides fragilis host strain GB124 (B124 phage) have been demonstrated to be highly specific indicators of human fecal contamination, but to date, little is known about their susceptibility to UV-B radiation. Therefore, B124 phage (n = 7) isolated from municipal wastewater effluent, were irradiated in a controlled laboratory environment using UV-B collimated beam experiments. All B124 phage suspensions possessed highly similar first order log-linear inactivation profiles and the mean fluence required to inactivate phage by 4 - log10 was 320 mJ cm-2. These findings suggest that phage infecting GB124 are likely to be inactivated when exposed to the levels of UV-B solar radiation experienced in a variety of environmental settings. As such, this may limit the utility of such methods for determining more remote inputs of fecal contamination in areas subject to high levels of solar radiation. Bacteriophage infecting Bacteroides fragilis strain GB-124 are a useful tool in determining the source of fecal pollution within aquatic environments. Here we present insights into the UV-B inactivation ecology of this important phage group by conducting controlled laboratory collimated-beam UV-B irradiation experiments. Results indicate that B124 phage may be inactivated at levels of UV-B commonly recorded in the environment, and inactivation potential should be considered when interpreting environmental B124 phage data. © 2014 The American Society of Photobiology.


PubMed | Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, University of Bern and Swiss Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office
Type: Journal Article | Journal: Epidemiology and infection | Year: 2016

Clinical observations made by practitioners and reported using web- and mobile-based technologies may benefit disease surveillance by improving the timeliness of outbreak detection. Equinella is a voluntary electronic reporting and information system established for the early detection of infectious equine diseases in Switzerland. Sentinel veterinary practitioners have been able to report cases of non-notifiable diseases and clinical symptoms to an internet-based platform since November 2013. Telephone interviews were carried out during the first year to understand the motivating and constraining factors affecting voluntary reporting and the use of mobile devices in a sentinel network. We found that non-monetary incentives attract sentinel practitioners; however, insufficient understanding of the reporting system and of its relevance, as well as concerns over the electronic dissemination of health data were identified as potential challenges to sustainable reporting. Many practitioners are not yet aware of the advantages of mobile-based surveillance and may require some time to become accustomed to novel reporting methods. Finally, our study highlights the need for continued information feedback loops within voluntary sentinel networks.


PubMed | Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, University of Bern and Swiss Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office
Type: Journal Article | Journal: Preventive veterinary medicine | Year: 2015

Systems for the identification and registration of cattle have gradually been receiving attention for use in syndromic surveillance, a relatively recent approach for the early detection of infectious disease outbreaks. Real or near real-time monitoring of deaths or stillbirths reported to these systems offer an opportunity to detect temporal or spatial clusters of increased mortality that could be caused by an infectious disease epidemic. In Switzerland, such data are recorded in the Tierverkehrsdatenbank (TVD). To investigate the potential of the Swiss TVD for syndromic surveillance, 3 years of data (2009-2011) were assessed in terms of data quality, including timeliness of reporting and completeness of geographic data. Two time-series consisting of reported on-farm deaths and stillbirths were retrospectively analysed to define and quantify the temporal patterns that result from non-health related factors. Geographic data were almost always present in the TVD data; often at different spatial scales. On-farm deaths were reported to the database by farmers in a timely fashion; stillbirths were less timely. Timeliness and geographic coverage are two important features of disease surveillance systems, highlighting the suitability of the TVD for use in a syndromic surveillance system. Both time series exhibited different temporal patterns that were associated with non-health related factors. To avoid false positive signals, these patterns need to be removed from the data or accounted for in some way before applying aberration detection algorithms in real-time. Evaluating mortality data reported to systems for the identification and registration of cattle is of value for comparing national data systems and as a first step towards a European-wide early detection system for emerging and re-emerging cattle diseases.


News Article | December 5, 2016
Site: www.biosciencetechnology.com

The "reproducibility crisis" in biomedical research has led to questions about the scientific rigor in animal research, and thus the ethical justification of animal experiments. In research publishing in the Open Access journals PLOS Biology and PLOS ONE on December 2nd, 2016, researchers from the University of Bern have assessed scientific rigor in animal experimentation in Switzerland. The study, commissioned by the Swiss Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO), found widespread deficiencies in the reporting of experimental methodology. In a first step, Ph.D. student Lucile Vogt and postdoc Thomas Reichlin from the Division of Animal Welfare at the Vetsuisse Faculty in Bern screened all 1,277 approved applications for animal experiments in Switzerland in 2008, 2010 and 2012, as well as a random sample of 50 scientific publications resulting from studies described in the applications. The materials were assessed to determine whether seven basic methods that can help combat experimental bias were reported (including randomization, blinding, and sample size calculation). Appropriate use and understanding of these methods is a prerequisite for unbiased, scientifically valid results, says lead author Prof. Hanno Würbel, director of the Division of Animal Welfare. As published in their PLOS Biology study, explicit evidence that these methods were used either in the applications for animal experiments or in the subsequent publications was scarce. For example, fewer than 20 percent of applications and publications mentioned whether a sample size calculation had been performed (8 percent in applications, 0 percent in publications), whether the animals had been assigned randomly to treatment groups (13 percent in applications, 17 percent in publications), and whether outcome assessment had been conducted blind to treatment (3 percent in applications, 11 percent in publications). Animal experiments are authorized based on the explicit understanding that they will provide significant new knowledge and that animals will suffer no unnecessary harm. Thus, scientific rigor is a fundamental prerequisite for the ethical justification of animal experiments. Based on this study, the current practice of authorizing animal experiments appears to rest on an assumption of scientific rigor, rather than on evidence that it is applied. The authors of this study recommend more education and training in good research practice and scientific integrity for all those involved in this process. Although the initial results found that fewer than 20 percent of applications and publications used methods to control for bias, that didn't necessarily mean that more than 80 percent of animal studies failed to include methods to combat bias, and therefore use animals for potentially inconclusive research. "It is possible that the researchers did use these methods but did not mention them in their applications and publications," says study director Hanno Würbel. "So we decided to ask the researchers." The researchers used an online survey for all 1,891 animal researchers registered in the central online information system of the FSVO who were involved with ongoing experiments. Among other questions, researchers were asked what bias-reducing methods they normally use when conducting animal experiments and which of these they had explicitly reported in their latest scientific publication. According to the researchers' responses, as published in their PLOS ONE study, the use of methods against bias is considerably higher than reported in the animal research applications and publications. Eighty-six percent of the participants claimed to assign animals randomly to treatment groups, but only 44 percent answered that they had reported this in their latest publication. The same applies to the other measures, for example, for sample size calculation (69 percent claimed to be doing this, but only 18 percent say they reported it in their latest publication) and for blinded outcome assessment (47 percent vs. 27 percent). Taken together, the researchers draw two conclusions from these results: on the one hand, reporting in animal research applications or publications may underestimate the use of bias-reducing methods. On the other hand, the researchers may overestimate their use of appropriate methods. "We found considerably fewer publications with explicit evidence of the use of measures against risks of bias than claimed by the researchers", says Würbel. For example, 44 percent of the participants claimed to have reported randomization in their latest publication, but Würbel's team found evidence of randomization in only 17 percent of publications.

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