Center for Biosafety and Biosecurity
The use of biological agents as weapons has a long documented history. However, the 2001 Anthrax attacks via the U.S. postal system demonstrated the ease of an individual or group to use microorganisms and toxins as weapons. This attack showed there are serious concerns that need to be addressed for the safety and security of both people and nationals assets.
The initial considerations for any investigation are the same, be it for public health or microbial forensics. The Anthrax attacks further highlighted a need for formalized programs which develop effective countermeasures and provide an integrated system of resources to support future epidemiological and microbial forensic investigations.
The Center for Biosafety and Biosecurity (CBB) is a component of the Institute of Applied Genetics (IAG). The CBB provides recommendations and tools for rationale, design, and conduct of the scientific community during infectious disease investigations. The activities of CBB encompass the three mission areas of the IAG and UNTHSC: (a) Education and Training (b) Research and Development, and (c) Community Service.
CBB MISSION: To improve quality of life and national security through excellence in education and research of emerging and infectious disease.
Tick Borne Disease Research Lab
The Department of Forensic and Investigative Genetics at the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Ft. Worth has been directed by the Senate Committee on Administration to develop uniform testing of tick-borne illness. In order to achieve this directive, the Tick-Borne Disease Research Laboratory was constructed after receiving dedicated space and equipment, in addition to high throughput instrumentation. Beginning October 1, 2004 the Tick-Borne Disease Research Laboratory became the testing laboratory for all tick submissions to the Texas Department of State Health Services Zoonosis Control Division.
Tick-Borne Diseases in Texas
In Texas, Amblyomma americanum (Acari: Ixodidae), also known as the lone star tick, is commonly implicated in tick-borne illness. The lone star tick has been previously identified as carrying Borrelia spp., Ehrlichia chaffeensis, Ehrlichia ewingii, Rickettsia spp. (including R. rickettsia, R. amblyommii, R. parkeri and Rickettsia sp. MOAa), Coxiella burnettii, Francisella tularensis, Bartonella henselae, and Babesia microti. Generally used detection methods (i.e. culture, histological staining, biochemical testing, ELISA, Western Blot and nucleic acid sequencing) can be laborious, time consuming and require multiple tests for pathogen detection.
The tick-borne disease research laboratory’s main research interests lie in the development and application of rapid DNA-based diagnostic systems to study vector-borne pathogens. Of particular interest are Borrelia, Ehrlichia, and Rickettsia species.
Many of the vector-borne emerging pathogens are now listed as National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) Category A, B & C priority pathogens (http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/BiodefenseRelated/Biodefense/Pages/default.aspx). Therefore, several molecular diagnostic approaches are also being investigated for microbial forensic testing and application in biodefense measures.
Texas residents that desire testing can submit samples through their local health department's zoonosis control office. Testing of ticks attached to Texas residents is provided through the TX DSHS at no charge. These services are also available for non-Texas residents and veterinary laboratories on a per sample fee basis. Any questions the general public has regarding the Tick-Borne Disease Research Laboratory or about sample submission requirements can be directed to:
Tick-Borne Disease Research Laboratory
Department of Forensic and Investigative Genetics
University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth
3500 Camp Bowie Boulevard
Fort Worth, TX 76107-2699