For nearly a century, the veterinary laboratory at Onderstepoort has been a centre of excellence for veterinary research in South Africa. With its proud history of scientific achievement in the understanding of serious diseases of livestock and the contributions that it has made to their control, the ARC-Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute (ARC-OVR) is today, as always, internationally acclaimed and supported. ARC-OVR has been described as a beacon of light for veterinary science in Africa.

The ARC-OVR owes its origin to the rinderpest outbreak that swept through South Africa in 1896. Its forerunner was a laboratory established at Daspoort by Arnold Theiler in 1897. Rinderpest was eradicated in 1898, but the need for veterinary research in South Africa had been amply demonstrated. Read more...

The Agricultural Research Council was established in 1992, but the vaccine factory was not transferred to the ARC. In 1995 the Foot and Mouth laboratory was absorbed into the ARC as a separate institute, the Onderstepoort Campus for Exotic Diseases, but the vaccine factory, as Onderstepoort Biological Products, remained under the National Department of Agricultural Forestry and Fisheries. In 1998, on the retirement of the Director of ARC-OVR, the Institute for Exotic Diseases was amalgamated with ARC-OVR.

Research at ARC-OVR continues to be directed to the control of diseases of livestock. Much of the research is carried out at the molecular level, which has enabled remarkable advances in our understanding of the genome of various pathogenic organisms. Based on this knowledge, new diagnostic tools and novel vaccines are being developed. Genotyping of strains of virus isolated from outbreaks permits the origin of the outbreaks (FMD) to be traced, which is of great value in situations like the recent Foot and Mouth disease outbreaks in South Africa. Because animal diseases do not respect provincial, national or socio-economic barriers, the entire South African livestock-owning population, as well as our neighbours, stands to benefit from the veterinary research carried out at ARC-OVR.

The ARC-OVR has now, as in the past, a high profile internationally. It has OIE collaborating centres for 7 diseases (African horse sickness, bluetongue, Foot and mouth disease, Rift Valley fever, rabies, lumpy skin disease and African swine fever). Although animal disease crises like the FMD and anthrax outbreak are fortunately rare, the ARC-OVR continuously functions as a strategic facility where progressive research ensures that South Africa stays ahead of the field in animal disease diagnostics and prophylaxis.

In the ARC, the ARC-OVR functions as a strategic facility that maintains good public assets and undertakes public good activities in the field of animal health. At the same time, animal health is essential to improving livestock production at all levels in the agricultural sector. The ARC-OVR provides expertise in the form of research, diagnostics and information to the entire livestock-owning community in South Africa and further afield.

National Assets


SA National Veterinary Museum.jpgThe SANVM is an upgraded version of an initiative to preserve the history of veterinary science in South Africa inclusive of the early history of the Onderstepoort Veterinary Research Campus (OVR), the Veterinary Faculty of the University of Pretoria and the vaccine facility, now known as Onderstepoort Biological Products. The museum was started many decades ago and its drastic improvement, in a century old OVR building, was selected in 1998 as a project by the History Committee of the South African Veterinary Association to be completed in 2008 for the centenary celebrations of the Onderstepoort complex.



The Parasites, Vectors & Vector-borne Diseases Programme (PVVD) of the ARC -Onderstepoort Veterinary Research Campus (ARC-OVR), is the proud custodian of the Gertrud Theiler Tick Museum (incorporating the National Tick Collection) recognized as a national public goods asset. The museum was established in 2005, after incorporating collections of the African Tick Museum housed previously at the Midrand University, Gauteng (through the patronage of Dr A. Latif) with those of the Onderstepoort Tick Collection. The collection currently houses some 2500 tick collections, comprising 375 species from 19 genera of all three ixodid families, rendering it of great historical and archival value. 



Housed in the Parasites, Vectors and Vector-borne Diseases Programme of the ARC-Onderstepoort Veterinary Research Campus, the National Collection of Animal Helminths includes the type, secondary and overseas collections of helminths of veterinary importance. The collection was founded in the early 20th century through the initiative of HO Monnig (1920s-1930s), Further contributions through the works of RJ Ortlepp (1930s - 1960s), A Verster (1960s - 1990s), J Boomker (1970s -2000s) and taxonomists worldwide have since expanded it into a testimony of the rich biodiversity of helminths (and other metazoan endoparasites) in South Africa and countries worldwide.


This activity deals with the diagnostics, biosystematics and control of insects of veterinary importance, as well as technology transfer to farmers, students and the public. The reference collection of veterinary important insects, including Culicoides, Simulium, lice and fleas can be considered a National asset. The maintenance and expansion of these collections databases, and the development of identification keys and new research areas also form part of this project. Input into and expansion of the reference collection depends greatly on receiving ad hoc samples for routine identification and material collected as part of other funded activities. 

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