One key to any campaign for countering bioterrorism is rapid identification of the infectious agent. In the event of an outbreak, trained personnel in Biosafety Level 4 microbiology laboratories must be available and be equipped to handle high risk infectious agents. Rapid identification can save lives and limit dissemination of the weaponized biological agent.
You have learned about numerous tools – molecular, taxonomic, biochemical, etc. - that could be harnessed in a specialized laboratory to isolate and identify a threatening bacterial species. Incorporate what you have learned into your responses to the scenario proposed here.
Panic and fear have spread across the country as 106 individuals in a large metropolitan center have come down with a severe illness of unknown origin. The media has announced a large terrorist cell has claimed responsibility and is taunting the government with claims of a highly contagious and virulent pathogen. Microbiologists are scrambling to identify and characterize the bacteria from patient specimens in order to instate successful control measures and devise an effective therapeutic regimen. For this fictional scenario,
- Which bacterial species would you suspect is the causative agent and why. What features make your selected bacterial species a good candidate for an agent of bioterrorism?
- What methods would you recommend for collection, culturing and identifying the species you have identified? Defend your choices.
- How would you devise a workflow to ensure that the specimen was correctly identified and the laboratory workers safely and efficiently worked with the specimen collected?
Along with your classmates, characterize a superior disease-detection system for each of your chosen bacterial species. When possible suggest alternative protocols and be constructive in your critique of your classmate’s chosen agent, identification protocol and workflow. Work together to ensure the disease is stopped in its tracks and the threat of attack from the terrorist cell neutralized!!