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Facility Research & Staffing for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility


Diseases of Interest

The following diseases have currently been defined by the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for study at the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF):

  • Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). Viral disease of domestic and wild cloven-hoofed animals; acute disease characterized by fever, lameness, and vesicular lesions on the feet, tongue, mouth and teats; FMD is considered to be one of the most contagious, infectious diseases known; cost estimates of an introduction of FMD in the U.S. are more than $37 billion.
  • Classical Swine Fever (CSF). Wild and domestic swine are the only known natural reservoir; widespread throughout the world and has the potential to cause devastating epidemics, particularly in countries free of the disease; any outbreak of CSF would have serious consequences for domestic and international trade of swine and swine products; improved countermeasures are needed.
  • African Swine Fever (ASF). Infected animals have high mortality rates; effective countermeasures are not available for infected animals; no vaccines are available to prevent infection; no treatment exists for ASF and countermeasures need improvements.
  • Rift Valley Fever (RVF). Virus affects human beings and cloven-hoofed animals (sheep, goats, cattle, camels, buffalo and deer); suitable countermeasures to respond in the U.S. do not exist; risk for establishment of endemic disease; ranked as a major disease of concern with USDA, DHS, and other stakeholders.
  • Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP). Caused by an infective microorganism (Mycoplasma mycoides); primarily affects cattle including European-bred cattle and Zebu; a related form can affect goats; may survive for days in the environment; no treatment available.
  • Japanese Encephalitis (JE) Virus. Similar to St. Louis encephalitis virus; JE virus is amplified in the blood of domestic pigs and wild birds; the virus can infect humans, most domestic animals, birds, bats, snakes and frogs.
  • Nipah Virus. Virus was discovered in 1999; causes disease in swine and in humans through contact with infectious animals; mode of transmission between animals and from animals to humans is uncertain (appears to require close contact with infected tissues or body fluids); caused respiratory disease and encephalitis in people in Malaysia and Singapore; no drug therapies have yet been proven to be effective in treating Nipah infection; no countermeasures exist.
  • Hendra Virus. Formerly called equine morbillivirus; first isolated in 1994; the natural reservoir for Hendra virus is still under investigation; human beings and equines seem to be predominately affected; caused respiratory and neurological disease in horses and humans in Australia. The NBAF research mission will be based on current pathogen and disease risk assessments, subject to change as threats and risk assessments change.

The NBAF research mission will be based on current pathogen and disease risk assessments, subject to modification as threats and risk assessments change.

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Research Focus

Researchers would focus on developing tests to detect the diseases and countermeasures to prevent the disease. In some cases, we would be studying the disease itself to determine:

  • what mechanism it uses to enter the animal,
  • what type of cell the disease affects,
  • what effects the disease causes on the cells ,
  • how to develop countermeasures to help the animal develop protection against the disease, and
  • how quickly the animal can become protected from the disease.

By knowing what type of cell the disease affects we are able to develop a test to more accurately and quickly determine if the animal is suffering from that specific disease.

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Agency Responsibilities

NBAF is owned by the Department of Homeland Security with the Department of Agriculture's Agriculture Research Service (USDA-ARS) and Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, Veterinary Services (USDA-APHIS-VS) as our primary partners. These same agencies are currently working in the Plum Island facility.

The Department of Health and Human Services and other agencies may also have space in the facility, in case of some event where the researchers would wish for a particular agency’s assistance or an event dictates a particular agency needs additional assistance.

The Departments of Homeland Security and Agriculture work cooperatively to set priorities regarding diseases to be researched. They use a variety of risk assessments, gap analysis and intelligence gathering in order to establish the priorities.

ARS functions to perform the early research and transition prospective candidates for countermeasure development to Homeland Security. The Department of Homeland Security further develops these candidates and transitions them to commercial partners for complete development and hand off to APHIS for use in the National Veterinary Stockpile. The Department of Homeland Security, ARS and APHIS work to develop diagnostic tools that can be utilized in the reference and state laboratories.

Once developed, APHIS is responsible for validating the new assays/tools and deploying them to the National Animal Health Laboratory Network. APHIS is also responsible for operating the Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory for diagnosis of Foot and Mouth disease and other high consequence Foreign Animal Diseases as well as training veterinarians in the Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostician's school.

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Staffing

There will be between 250 and 350 employees employed at the facility.

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