Breaking news -

0 $3.1M joins war against bioterror

Bioterrorism research at Albany Medical College received a $3.1 million boost in funding from the U.S. Department of Defense.

The money will be used to study the molecular "signature" of tularemia, naturally occurring bacteria that can be cultivated in a lab as a biological weapon. If inhaled into the lungs, it is fatal.
Tularensis, which is found in soil and water, was weaponized during the Cold War by scientists in the United States and Soviet Union. It is considered a likely bioterrorism agent for modern-day terrorists.
The grant will allow Professor Karsten R.O. Hazlett, a molecular microbiologist, to study the difference between naturally occurring and lab-produced tularemia. The work will help public health officials quickly determine whether a tularemia outbreak is a fluke of nature or a threat to national security.
The chemical makeup of tularemia has a molecular signature that varies depending on where it was cultivated, Hazlett said. If the scientists catalog those signatures "we can say with some level of certainty that this was grown in the lab, this was grown in a macrophage (an immune cell in the body) or this was grown in pond water."
As the research is fine-tuned, it could even point to which lab made it, much like the anthrax investigations conducted a decade ago.
For the research, Hazlett and his team members will cultivate tularemia under conditions that mimic the bacterium's natural environment and the lab conditions that would be used by bioterrorists. Samples will be sent for analysis to collaborators at the universities of Maryland and Chicago.
Not only will better knowledge of the bacteria aid in national security, but Hazlett said the information can help vaccine research. Albany Med's Center for Immunology and Microbial Disease is working on a vaccine.


No comments: