COLUMBIA — Before you can fight a disease, you have to identify the foe. For that, you need someone like Guillermo Rimoldi.
Recently named the head of the histopathology section of the Veterinary Diagnostic Center (CVDC), a unit of Clemson University Livestock Poultry Health in Columbia, Rimoldi is responsible for examining tissue samples of animals in order to diagnose potential diseases.
The CVDC is on the front line in the war against animal diseases as dangerous as rabies and as potentially devastating as avian influenza.
“What we do in the diagnostic lab is detect problems so producers and farmers can treat their flocks and herd animals and improve their vaccination schedules,” Rimoldi said.
“We do a lot of of surveillance,” he said. “Almost every avian sample that comes to our necropsy floor is checked for pathogens such as avian influenza and also Newcastle Disease, which can be very important from an economic point of view. Our task is to come up with a fast and accurate diagnosis to stop an outbreak.”
The CVDC assists veterinarians, the animal industry and animal owners with livestock, poultry, companion animal and wildlife disease problems. The list of pathogens they can encounter reads like a chilling catalog of pestilence: salmonella; listeria; West Nile Virus; and Eastern equine encephalitis, a devastating disease of horses. Many of these diseases are zoonotic, meaning they can affect people as well as animals, Rimoldi said.
Fast-spreading poultry diseases such as Newcastle and avian influenza are of special concern given the size of the industry in South Carolina. Poultry annually contribute more than $12 billion — more than a quarter of the total economic impact of the state’s agribusiness — from more than 3,350 active houses at 800 commercial poultry farms across the Palmetto State.
“If a producer with 50,000 birds sends us carcasses of poultry that have died, an accurate diagnoses can be the difference in saving hundreds if not thousands more birds in addition to stopping the spread of disease to other farms,” Rimoldi said.
A 1994 graduate of veterinary sciences at the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Rimoldi comes to Clemson from the Tulare Veterinary Diagnostic Lab at the University of California-Davis, where he served as a pathologist for the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System. Rimoldi is board certified in anatomic pathology by the American College of Veterinary Pathologists.
He joins a laboratory that is part of a three-pronged state regulatory agency — Clemson Livestock Poultry Health — that is charged with the responsibility of protecting the health of food animals such as cattle, poultry, swine and other livestock. The CVDC works alongside sister LPH divisions — Animal Health Programs and Meat and Poultry Inspection — to help assure a safe and adequate food supply and to protect the health and welfare of South Carolinians.
A member of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network, the Diagnostic Center has the capability to perform necropsy, histopathology, bacteriology, virology and serology. It accepts most species of animals from practicing veterinarians, regulatory officials and animal owners.
“We perform some diagnostics for protection for companion animals as well,” Rimoldi said. “But our core mission is to safeguard livestock and poultry health for the benefit of people, the environment and the economy.”
Tom Hallman works in the Public Service and Agriculture; College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences at Clemson University.