For over 20 years, the IAEA, in partnership with the the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) , has trained and equipped experts from all over the world to use the real time RT–PCR method, particularly through its VETLAB Network of veterinary diagnostic laboratories. Recently, this technique has also been employed to diagnose other diseases, such as Ebola, Zika, MERS and SARS, as well as other major animal diseases. It has also been used to detect major zoonotic diseases, which are animal diseases that can also infect humans.



RT-PCR : a nuclear-derived method

In recent years, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has helped countries to diagnose zoonotic diseases such as Brucella, Rift Valley fever, Ebola, Zika, dengue, Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-Cov-1), avian influenza and others, using a nuclear-derived method called real time RT-PCR. Now, the IAEA is helping countries around the world to use this method in their fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Real time RT-PCR, or reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, is a nuclear-derived method for specific detection of the presence of genetic material from humans or animals and their respective pathogens, including the RNA coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 that causes the COVID-19 disease. It is one of the most sensitive techniques available today for detecting the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

One hundred and twenty-six countries and territories have requested IAEA assistance (44 from the Africa region, 27 from Asia and the Pacific, 23 from Europe, and 32 from the Latin America and the Caribbean region), with 271 laboratories/institutions receiving IAEA technical cooperation (TC) support. Several countries have provided €25.7 million in extrabudgetary contributions.

To date, 124 countries and territories have received related IAEA shipments, which includes 1832 RT-PCR and diagnostic kits and related items.