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National Reference Laboratory

Lab Analysis

The Fish Health Unit (FHU) of the Marine Institute is the National Reference Laboratory  (NRL) for finfish, mollusc and crustacean diseases in Ireland.

The National Reference Laboratory is responsible for developing, validating and implementing appropriate methods for the testing of fish and shellfish diseases. This is often achieved through collaboration with the European or Community Reference laboratory in their area of expertise.

The NRL is designated by the Competent Authority under Article 17 of the EU Animal Health Regulation 2016/429, on the basis that it has the technical expertise necessary to carry out analysis of samples in relation to diseases of fish and shellfish diseases.

The FHU as the designated NRL for Ireland carries out testing for the diseases specified in EU Animal Health Regulation 2016/429 which lays down rules for the prevention and control of animal diseases which are transmissible to animals or humans.

Diagnostic Services

The Fish Health Unit (FHU) has a modern, well equipped laboratory which facilitates its national and international commitments in relation to the diagnosis and control of fish and shellfish diseases. There are five main sections within the unit: parasitology, histology, bacteriology, virology and molecular diagnostics.


  • Gross pathology and necropsy,
  • Wet mount preparations.


  • Sampling and fixation of fish, shellfish and crustaceans for histopathological diagnosis,
  • Histology slide preparation and staining, including storage for retrospective analysis.


  • Bacterial identification using primary and secondary identification techniques as, well as serological tests such as ELISA,
  • Testing for the residues of antimicrobials in fish muscle tissues.


  • Identification of viral pathogens using CHSE, BF-2, EPC, TO, SHK, KF-1 cell lines,
  • Monitoring for the presence of VHSV, IHNV and SVCV under active surveillance programmes,
  • Isolation of IPNV and Salmonid alphavirus (causing pancreas disease),
  • Serological identification of SAV in fish serum,
  • Ability to identify the exotic virus, ISAV.

Molecular Diagnosis:

  • Identification of all listed pathogens by PCR or RT-PCR,
  • Identification of pathogens of national significance by PCR or RT-PCR.
  • In situ hybridisation for confirmation of certain diseases.