The standardisation of laboratory techniques has acquired greater international significance since the OIE was designated to provide the animal health criteria for international trade by the World Trade Organisation ‘Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures’. Several papers in this volume examine important aspects of standardisation, namely: quality assurance, test validation, international reference standards and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) formats. The guidelines for laboratory quality evaluation, international reference standards for antibody assays and laboratory proficiency testing, developed by the OIE Standards Commission between 1995 and 1998, are also included in this issue.

Since the beginning of the 20th Century, most significant achievements in the control of certain infectious diseases of animals, such as new vaccines, vaccination methods, diagnostic techniques for pathogenic agents and antibody detection techniques, have been the result of the work of veterinary laboratories. The work of these laboratories is likely to become even more critical in the future as the development of new technologies strengthens their capacity for diagnostic, vaccine control and research work. Trade-related activities will also expand to include not only the traditional function of testing animals for export but also surveillance and monitoring testing to conform with new international requirements for the recognition of disease-free areas, risk assessment and regionalisation.

This Volume 17 (2) of the Scientific and Technical Review offers a total of sixteen papers by twenty-one authors and co-authors recognised internationally for their expertise in the field of veterinary laboratories for infectious diseases.