Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Mobile Laboratory for Bacillus Anthracis Detection

Authors
item Black, Scott - CRE, ALEXANDRIA, VA
item Higgins, James
item Karns, Jeffrey
item Perdue, Michael
item Breeze, Roger - USDA, SPECIAL RESEARCH
item House, David - CRE, ALEXANDRIA, VA
item Cooper, Mary - APHIS, AMES, IA
item Tucker, Linda - APHIS, AMES, IA
item Miller, David - APHIS, AMES, IA

Submitted to: National Cancer Institute, United States Army Medical Institute of Infectious Disease, United States Department of Agriculture Spring Research Fair
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: May 16, 2002
Publication Date: May 16, 2002
Citation: Black, S., Higgins, J.A., Karns, J.S., Perdue, M.L., Breeze, R., House, D., Cooper, M., Tucker, L., Miller, D. 2002. Mobile laboratory for Bacillus anthracis detection. National Cancer Institute, United States Army Medical Institute of Infectious Disease, United States Department of Agriculture Spring Research Fair.

Interpretive Summary: In response to a bioterrorism event in the Washington, DC area in October 2001, the USDA set up a mobile laboratory in the Navy Yard in Southeastern DC to examine suspicious envelopes, received at USDA mailrooms and other US government agency facilities, for the presence of spores of Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of anthrax. In addition to envelopes, a contractor (LARES/CRE) provided swab and air sample testing of mailrooms in 30 locations in the metro DC area. Envelope contents, swab, and air samples were subjected to DNA extraction and real time PCR in the mobile laboratory. Samples were also sent to the National Veterinary Service Laboratory (NVSL) in Ames, IA, where attempts were made to culture B. anthracis. As of March 2002, 251 pieces of mail have been examined, 196 real time PCR assays performed (comprising 2,523 samples), and 600 samples subjected to over 2000 platings. While none of the PCR assays conducted on the DNA from swab and air samples were positive, viable B. anthracis spores were cultured from four locations in the DC area, from samples obtained in October, November, and December 2001. A variety of PCR assays and DNA sequencing were used to confirm that these cultures were genuine B. anthracis. To date, no cases of anthrax have been reported among workers in the sampled sites.

Technical Abstract: In response to a bioterrorism event in the Washington, DC area in October 2001 a mobile laboratory (ML) was set up in the city to conduct rapid molecular tests on environmental samples for the detection of Bacillus anthracis spores. The ML contained two Class I laminar flow hoods, a small autoclave, and two ruggedized advanced pathogen identification devices (RAPID). Envelopes, and swab and air samples collected from 30 locations in the metropolitan area once every three days, were subjected to examination and DNA extraction, followed by real time PCR using freeze dried, fluorescent probe-based reagents. Attempts to culture B. anthracis from swab and air samples were also made, both in the ML and at the National Veterinary Service Laboratory in Ames, IA. As of March 2002, 251 pieces of mail have been examined, 196 real time PCR assays performed (comprising 2,523 samples), and 600 samples subjected to over 2000 platings. While none of the PCR assays on DNA extracted from swab and air samples were positive, viable spores were cultured from four locations in the metropolitan area in October, November, and December 2001. DNA extracted from these suspected B. anthracis colonies was positive by real time and conventional PCRs for the lethal factor, pXO1, capA, and vrr genes; sequence analysis of the latter amplicons indicated > 99% homology with the Ames, vollum, B6273-93, C93022281, and W-21 strains of B. anthracis.

Last Modified: 7/30/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page