Health Team

War on Bioterrorism Being Fought in Duke Facility

Posted February 19, 2007

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— A new building on the Duke University campus is not your average research facility. It is meant to keep trespassers out and deadly microbes in.

The Global Health Research Building is the first of 13 facilities to open across the country, each funded by the National Institutes of Health. Their mandate is to respond to research needs for the country related to multiple emerging infections or biological threats.

"The building was built to the highest standards of bio-containment, exceeding many of the standards for this type of research," said Dr. Richard Frothingham, director of the Global Health Research Building. "Things like tuberculosis, anthrax, plague, tularemia would then be handled here and the cells would be sorted in live fashion."

Most of the deadly microbes can spread through the air so air flow is tightly controlled. Air flows into, not out, of bio-safety labs where the pathogens are studied. Layers of germ-killing filters ensure that no germ leaves the building. Even lab mice cages are hermetically sealed.

"Once it's removed from the rack, there's no air coming in or out of this cage," Frothingham said.

What researchers learn could lead to new drugs to treat infected people or vaccines to prevent infection. Scientists are looking for ways to more rapidly develop vaccines for emerging strains of Avian flu, West Nile virus or SARS.

The labs where the dangerous germs will be studied will be operational by April.
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  • Thomas Jefferson Feb 20, 2007

    Anyone here ever read White Plague by Frank Herbert