AAHL – Australia’s biocontainment laboratory

Enabling research and diagnostics involving high consequence pathogens


Dr. Kurt Zuelke


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Post author: Sally Corinaldi. Last update: 12/08/2016 at 10:43 am by Sally Corinaldi.


One of the world’s most sophisticated high containment laboratories with unique capabilities to research and diagnose dangerous pathogens of animal origin. As about 70 per cent of emerging infectious diseases in people originate in animals, AAHL works closely with both veterinary and human health agencies nationally and internationally.

The extensive laboratories at physical containment level three (PC3) and four (PC4) are accessible to Australian and international researchers to enable collaborative research into the most infectious diseases.

PC4 Zoonosis Suite & Bioimaging Facility
Officially opened in December 2011 with funding from the National Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS), the PC4 Zoonosis Suite and Bioimaging Facility is a shared resource dedicated to research into infectious diseases that affect the health of humans, domestic animals and wildlife. The Suite provides advanced technology and infrastructure for scientists undertaking research that requires a laboratory environment with the highest levels of biosafety.

Work performed here includes diagnostics, research specialising in the identification and characterisation of new and emerging viruses, comparative immunology and pathogenesis studies.

The PC4 Zoonosis Suite includes:

  • the main large PC4 laboratory with work stations and cabinets for five scientists
  • the Bioimaging laboratory (capable of operating at PC3 or PC4)
  • insectary rooms at both PC3 and PC4 for the study of arboviruses
  • two small animal rooms at PC4

Bioimaging Facility

Incorporated within the PC4 Zoonosis Suite, the Bioimaging Facility is a specialist microscopy service and a Linked Laboratory of the Australian Microscopy & Microanalysis Research Facility (AMMRF).

AAHL’s Bioimaging Facility is networked throughout Australia providing a real-time interactive platform for research collaboration.

Our equipment and expertise is available to research partners and includes:

  • live cell imaging
  • laser dissection microscopy
  • confocal microscopy
  • advanced transmission and scanning electron microscopy including cryo immuno-electron microscopy, x-ray microanalysis and tomography.

Biosecure Immunology Laboratory

Opened in May 2013 this PC3 laboratory will provide more specialised techniques, at a cellular level, to help researchers pin‑point the immune mechanisms employed by various animal hosts.

Thanks to operational funding support from NCRIS, the laboratory is available as a national resource to enable research scientists from across the world to work on infected live cells, all contained within the quarantined biosecure area.

Having access to a PC3 comparative immunology laboratory of this calibre will be critical in helping Australia develop new, more natural, therapeutics and boost our work in preventing, detecting and treating emerging infectious diseases. Working in this new facility, which houses a flow cytometer machine capable of sorting infected live cell types, scientists at AAHL can now compare the immune responses of different animal species, including humans, to the most pathogenic infectious agents.

Biocontainment training

To facilitate access to our NCRIS funded facilities, AAHL has a dedicated PC3 and PC4 training laboratory 60 square metres in size.

The area incorporates simulated chemical showers, laboratory equipment and a range of different personal protective equipment (PPE). It mirrors what is included in the actual laboratories at AAHL and enables trainees to become proficient and comfortable working in encapsulated suits in a low risk environment before actually entering a PC4 laboratory or animal facility.

The training facility is used to provide in-house introductory and annual refresher training for staff and is also used to provide specialised international biosafety and biorisk management training courses for people working or seeking to work at PC3 or PC4.

Diagnostic Emergency Response Laboratory (DERL)

  • A state-of-the-art high throughput testing laboratory. This laboratory will be used in the event of an emergency animal disease outbreak. DERL plays a dual role at AAHL. In ‘routine mode’, while there is no emergency animal disease outbreak, the laboratory functions as a core diagnostic area and an area for test development and validation. In the face of an outbreak, the laboratory will become an assembly line for samples and will enable AAHL staff to perform serology tests on up to 10 000 samples per day, with maximum biosecurity.

Diagnostic services

  • AAHL’s Diagnosis, Surveillance and Response (DSR) Group provides a comprehensive diagnostic service for emergency animal diseases, routine quarantine testing, technical advice, education and training (https://aahllabservices.csiro.au/index.aspx). Diagnostic services include; (1) agent identification and characterisation; (2) Quarantine testing; (3) Innocuity testing; (4) Provision of reagents; (5) Aquatic animal testing.

Biosecure animal facilities:

  • AAHL has animal facilities that can be made available on a collaborative or contract basis. These modern animal facilities can house a range of animal species, both large and small. Several animal rooms are available for PC4 work and one PC3 room has been modified to facilitate work with insects.

Access by:

  • Fee for service
  • Research Collaboration



Know how:

  • Training and education in disease diagnostics and biosafety practices
  • Animal and zoonotic infectious disease diagnosis, surveillance and control
  • Animal models for pathogens at biosafety levels 3 and 4
  • Comparative pathogenesis
  • Comparative immunology

Expertise – availability of technical support:

  • Experimental design (in collaboration)
  • Instrument usage
  • Animal models



Our high containment laboratories are accessible to external organisations in a variety of ways, most commonly where:

  • a visiting scientist conducts one or more specific projects within the facility
  • AAHL scientists perform the work on a client’s behalf

If work is undertaken with the direct participation of AAHL staff, then accessing the facilities can either be structured on a fee-for-service or collaborative basis.

Subject to separate arrangements, a range of other facilities and services that are not part of the NCRIS-funded facility can also be accessed at AAHL, including our Large Animal Facility and many of our laboratory equipment and services.

Further information is available via our website: www.csiro.au/aahl

Access by collaboration, Access by fee for service
Access by users external to managing organisation, Access by users internal to managing organisation


Dr. Kurt Zuelke

Dr. Kurt Zuelke

Facility Director at CSIRO, Australian Animal Health Laboratories (AAHL).

P: (613) 5227 5000 | Email |

Ms. Sally Corinaldi

Ms. Sally Corinaldi

Communications / PR / Marketing, Facility Manager at CSIRO, Australian Animal Health Laboratories (AAHL).

P: +61 3 5227 5203 | Email |

Mr. Lyndon Judd

Mr. Lyndon Judd

Business Development at CSIRO, .

P: +61352275505 | Email |

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Affiliates and Partners


Type: Commercial research services provider, Core facility in a research organisation
Discipline areas: Biological Science
Precinct: Central
Affiliations: Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL), CSIRO
Accreditation: AQIS, OGTR
Biological Science categories: Animal models, Animal services, Biocontainment (PC3 and PC4), Cells and tissues, Clean rooms, Clinical trials resources, Diagnostics, Emergency disease diagnosis, Microscopy, Molecular libraries, Quarantine testing