Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Responding to Biological Threats

Laboratories play a critical role in identifying biological threats and have been actively developing complex integrated diagnostic systems to use in threatening situations. However, since threats are more complicated today, identification systems need to become even more sophisticated to improve laboratory detection reliability and to shape medical treatments.

The Army has been actively involved. For example, scientists at the U.S Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) have developed a ground-breaking method to identify biological agents.

Sage-N Research a computational pyrometrics company signed an exclusive license agreement with ECBC July 14, 2011. This agreement enables the integration of ECBC’s “Agents of Biological Origins Identification” (ABOID) into Sage-N Research’s existing SORCERER system, a proteomics platform that enables rapid and cost effective method to be used to identify microorganisms.

This will make it possible for ABOID to detect and identify microorganisms in minutes rather than hours by having access to a database of 4,500 unique genomes of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. This advanced method to detect biological threats has potential applications in military, medical, pharmaceutical, food, and public safety areas.

The Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRID) researches vaccines and drugs using Level 3 and Level 4 laboratories. The Army works with CDC and the World Health Organization, Department of Homeland Security, and industry partners to develop medical countermeasures to protect the military and civilians. As a reference laboratory for DOD, USAMRID sets the standard for identifying biological agents and has produced some 20 candidate medical products over the past decade.

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) is also protecting the public with “Chemical Hazards Emergency Medical Management” (CHEMM) available at This system is a web-based resource to help first responders and other healthcare providers plan for, respond to, and recover from chemical emergencies that may involve terrorist chemical releases but also may be the result of mass-casualty incidents.

The system provides evidence-based information on quick chemical identification, acute patient care guidelines, and initial event activities. It is also downloadable in advance so that it is available during an event if the internet is not accessible.

In addition, NLM has made the 4.4 “Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders” (WISER) available. WISER is a system to assist first responders when faced with hazardous material incidents and provides a wide range of information on hazardous substances. The information is available for download as a standalone application on windows, mobile devices, PDAs, Apple iPhone and iPod touch, BlackBerry devices, Microsoft Windows PCs, and via the web.