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Supporting veterinary microbiology: From chickens to chinchillas


NCTC is the worlds oldest bacterial strain collection and it is widely known that it provides authenticated clinical strains to support medical microbiologists and scientists. However, one of NCTCs lesser known functions is that it also houses alongside its medically relevant strains a number of strains of veterinary significance which have been sourced from animals over the last one hundred years.

Some of the oldest strains within the NCTC collection were isolated from diseased animals. This includes NCTC 624, a strain of Brucella abortus isolated in 1919 from a still born calf and NCTC 3709 a strain of Burkholderia mallei isolated in 1932 from an infected horse. The veterinary component of the collection has continued to grow over the years and now includes a wide eclectic mix of bacterial strains including those sourced from birds, for example Mycoplasma gallinarum (NCTC 10120) to a collection of Yersinia enterocolitica strains sourced from Chinchillas (NCTC 10461; 10462). NCTC also has a range of strains which have been isolated from aquatic sources including the significant fish pathogens Yersinia ruckeri (NCTC 12986) and Aeromonas salmonicida (NCTC 12959).

NCTC has many examples of supporting veterinary scientists involved in bacterial taxonomy who wish to describe novel bacterial species as it is an active repository for accepting Type strains. The designation of a “Type Strain” is unique to prokaryotic taxonomy and an essential part of the process in describing a new bacterial species. The International Code of Nomenclature of Prokaryotes (ICNP) which governs the naming of bacterial species dictates that in order to propose a new bacterial species the scientist must deposit a biological representative (designated the “Type strain”) into two different recognised bacterial repositories and the work describing their unique features to justify its species status must either be published within a recognised journal. Examples of important veterinary Type strains within NCTC includes a strain of NCTC 10141 Mycoplasma bovoculi which was isolated from the eye of a cow and NCTC 11722 which is the type strain of Mycoplasma phocarhinis, isolated from a harbour seal.

NCTC is a dynamic collection and we actively welcome the depositing of strains of veterinary significance.  The NCTC labs are registered to accept strains from hazard group 2 and 3 and with respect to United Kingdom legislation we are also able to accept strains listed under the Special Animal Pathogens Order level 2 and 3.

Veterinary Microbiologist wishing to deposit strains with NCTC should check our our depositing pages


Written by Dr Sarah Alexander 

October 2020

January 2020