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  4. Plum Island Animal Disease Center

Plum Island Animal Disease Center

Location: Orient Point, NY

Protecting the nation's livestock. PIADCSince 1954, the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC) has served as the nation’s premier defense against accidental or intentional introduction of transboundary animal diseases—highly transmissible diseases of livestock and other animals, including foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and African swine fever (ASF)—that can significantly affect food security, trade, and the economy. These diseases are not transmissible between animals and humans.

PIADC, which is operated by the DHS S&T Office of National Laboratories (ONL) in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is the only laboratory in the nation that can work on live FMD virus (FMDV) and ASF virus (ASFV). The lab and its staff of nearly 400 employees collaborate on a host of high-impact, indispensable preparedness and response capabilities, including vaccine and therapeutic R&D, diagnostics, detection and decontamination technologies, training, and bioforensics among others.

With ONL’s stewardship, PIADC provides oversight, technical expertise, coordination, and facilitation for DHS S&T agricultural defense countermeasure programs with other agencies. PIADC provides a safe, secure, compliant environment to execute mission-specific objectives.

DHS’s Transboundary Animal Disease Countermeasure Branch works in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) at Plum Island to research and develop new vaccines and diagnostic tests to respond to and control transboundary animal disease outbreaks. DHS is responsible for the operation for the laboratory.

The Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (FADDL) operated by USDA APHIS is an internationally recognized facility devoted to diagnosing foreign animal diseases. FADDL maintains the North American Foot-and-Mouth-Disease Vaccine Bank at PIADC. Personnel working in the vaccine bank are responsible for performing safety and potency testing of new antigen lots of FMD vaccine, and periodically testing the quality of stored antigen. APHIS also trains state, federal, and foreign officials in the clinical and laboratory diagnosis of foreign animal diseases through the FADD school.

PIADC scientists, the facilities they use, and the work they conduct on FMD, ASF, and other transboundary animal diseases is essential to protecting our agricultural and food industries. FMD is a highly contagious viral infection of cloven-hoofed domestic and wildlife animals, including cows, swine, and deer. The results of an FMD outbreak would have widespread economic consequences that negatively affect animal production, food security, and trade in susceptible animals and animal products. In 2012, PIADC scientists developed the first licensed FMD vaccine that does not require live FMDV in the manufacturing process, marking the first time next-generation FMD vaccines could be produced on the U.S. mainland. In 2017, a rapid-response, laboratory-based diagnostic test co-developed by PIADC scientists, Texas A&M, and industry, which was designed to differentiate between infected and vaccinated animal received a product license, providing animal health responders with an important outbreak mitigation tool.

ASF virus is a highly transmissible, viral hemorrhagic disease resulting in up to 100 percent mortality in swine that has spread rapidly through Asia, parts of Europe, and Africa. While there are no reported cases in the United States, a domestic ASF outbreak would end the ability of the U.S. to export pork and could cost billions of dollars in disease outbreak control. In response to the increased threat of ASF worldwide, an interagency ASF Task Force was established at PIADC including DHS S&T, USDA APHIS and USDA ARS. The purpose of this task force is to increase collaboration and coordination, leveraging resources between the three agencies at PIADC, to address the threat of ASF. Its top priorities are:

  • Fast-tracking vaccine development and production
  • Improving diagnostic testing
  • Increasing national preparedness and response
  • Evaluating commercially available disinfectants to characterize their ability to kill the ASF virus to support outbreak response. 

Consult the ASF Master Question List for more information about the current state of available information on ASF.

Plum Island Animal Disease Center Aerial ViewThe Plum Island Animal Disease Center operates Biosafety Level (BSL) 2, BSL-3 Enhanced, Animal Biosafety Level 3 (ABSL-3), and Biosafety Level 3 Agriculture (BSL-3Ag) laboratory and animal research facilities. PIADC utilizes well-established, contemporary biosafety and biosecurity practices and procedures to ensure the safety and security of personnel, the facility, and the animal-disease-causing organisms under study. These measures help prevent laboratory-acquired infections, cross contamination within the facility, and the release or escape of disease-causing organisms into the environment. The stringent and rigorously observed safety and security measures for the biocontainment facility include:

  • Restricted access to only authorized and trained employees and approved visitors subject to escort.
  • Trained security professionals and various surveillance systems.
  • Biocontainment laboratory facilities, such as vivarium and effluent decontamination systems operating under strict biosafety and biosecurity requirements including meeting or exceeding those required by the federal Select Agent Program.
  • A careful and comprehensive program of preventive maintenance performed on laboratory biosafety systems including the critical back up or redundant systems that provide an extra level of protection.
  • A well-trained and skilled operations and maintenance staff monitor laboratory air handling systems in real-time to help maintain biocontainment. The laboratory spaces on Plum Island are isolated from non-biocontainment areas using a system that draws fresh air in and filters the air before being exhausted from the facility. In addition, the inside of the biocontainment laboratory is kept at a lower air pressure than the ambient air outside. This helps ensure air inside the biocontainment laboratory does not leave the facility without first being adequately filtered.
  • Employees are required to take special precautions while working in a biocontainment laboratory to ensure they do not contaminate themselves or inadvertently carry disease-causing organisms outside the laboratory. To accomplish this critical biosafety objective, PIADC utilizes a combination of specialized containment equipment, facility design, trained staff, and established procedures and practices. For example, personnel are required to change clothes prior to entering the biocontainment laboratory and to remove laboratory-provided clothing and shower before leaving specific areas within the biocontainment facility, and again when leaving the biocontainment facility at the end of the work period.
  • Prior to gaining access to the biocontainment facility, all employees and visitors must agree to observe a personal recognizant quarantine for a defined time period, which precludes these individuals from having contact with animal species that are susceptible to the disease-causing organisms under study at the facility.
  • All biocontainment waste that leaves the facility must undergo biological decontamination processes. These include chemical (liquid and gaseous) and physical (heat and incineration) methods.

  • Our remote location—on an island, a mile-and-a-half off the tip of Long Island—has led to an inherent curiosity, and some misconceptions, about the nature of our work over the years. PIADC scientists conduct research on transboundary animal diseases, or diseases that are not transmissible to humans. To further clarify the nature of our work:

  • PIADC scientists do not research human or prion diseases. We do, however, encounter and work with some zoonotic diseases across the diagnostic and training missions. Our staff are trained and certified in stringent biosecurity measures to handle these samples to assure a safe laboratory work environment.
  • PIADC scientists do not research avian influenza.
  • PIADC scientists do not research, and have not researched, Lyme disease. Discover more information on the history of Lyme disease.
  • PIADC scientists do not research West Nile virus; however, the facility was asked to assist when an outbreak of West Nile virus affected horses on Long Island. PIADC scientists assisted with sample collection and the initial development and testing of a West Nile virus vaccine for horses. Discover more about the history of West Nile through the USDA and more about West Nile through the Centers for Disease Control.
  • PIADC scientists do not perform classified research. DHS and USDA scientists submit research for peer-reviewed publication in national and international scientific journals, as well as present their research at scientific conferences.

Plum Island Animal Disease Center
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
P.O. Box 848
Greenport, N.Y. 11944
SandTNatLabs@hq.dhs.gov

Last Updated: 02/12/2024
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