Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Microbial forensics sector not yet prepared for fulsome response to global biological outbreaks

Date:
June 9, 2014
Source:
National Academy of Sciences
Summary:
Much as human DNA can be used as evidence in criminal trials, genetic information about microorganisms can be analyzed to identify pathogens or other biological agents in the event of a suspicious disease outbreak. Biological outbreaks can include natural occurences, accidental or negligent releases from laboratories, biocrimes aimed at individuals or small groups, or acts of bioterrorism and biowarfare intended to affect large populations.

Much as human DNA can be used as evidence in criminal trials, genetic information about microorganisms can be analyzed to identify pathogens or other biological agents in the event of a suspicious disease outbreak.The tools and methods used to investigate such outbreaks belong to an emerging discipline known as microbial forensics, but the field faces substantial scientific and technical challenges, says a new report from the National Research Council.

The report offers an initial set of research priorities for advancing the capabilities needed to make microbial forensics a more effective tool for identifying and attributing the sources of biothreats. Many of these challenges are shared by other disciplines, such as medicine and public health, so bridging the gaps in microbial forensics could also strengthen capabilities and knowledge in these other areas, the report adds.

Biological outbreaks can include natural occurences, accidental or negligent releases from laboratories, biocrimes aimed at individuals or small groups, or acts of bioterrorism and biowarfare intended to affect large populations. In all scenarios, the primary goal of microbial forensics and the public health system is to protect the health and safety of the public, which requires that the microorganism be identified quickly and its source located to stop further cases of exposure.However, the methods and processes involved in microbial forensics investigations must also meet legal standards for evidence for use in law enforcement or for policy decisions when outbreaks cross national boundaries.

Events that require application of the full range of microbial forensics techniques, such as an act of bioterrorism, are likely to be rare. Natural and accidental infectious disease outbreaks occur more frequently, and most will first be recognized through the public health infrastructure.By creating, testing, and validating methods that are compatible with both rare and common occurences, detection and response will not be delayed by lack of availability of and familiarity with tools and systems when a rare event does happen, the report says.

The committee that wrote the report identified needs in basic science, technologies, analytic methods, data sharing, and training and education, and grouped them in terms of how difficult it will be to achieve them and whether there are existing efforts that can be drawn upon.

One set of needs includes those that are especially technologically challenging or that require long lead times.For example, there is a dearth of even the most basic information about many microorganisms and a crucial need for high-confidence methods to distinguish among natural, accidental, and deliberate disease outbreaks.A needed international effort to identify, monitor, and characterize more microbial species should start with known pathogens and expand to include close relatives and emerging pathogens, and more systematic and comprehensive reference collections and databases should be established.International political and scientific communities should explore how to share microbial forensic data.

A second set of needs includes those that could take advantage of ongoing efforts, especially those that are common to both microbial forensics and public health.Among these, priorities are research on pathogenicity and immune responses; improved global disease monitoring and surveillance in humans, plants, and animals; improved global access to molecular diagnostic techniques; and refinement of bioinformatics and statistical methods for evaluating evidence.

The third set of needs encompasses those with either relatively short lead times to make substantial progress or that can take advantage of existing markets that will provide incentives for industry to produce what is required. The development of faster, cheaper, and more reliable sequencing technologies, a compilation of all protocols being used and whether and how they have been validated, and the expansion of technical training fall into this category.

Additional challenges arise when a microbial forensics investigation crosses international boundaries.Currently, there is no international agreement or standard that governs what would be shared in a given set of circumstances.The need for access to scientific resources will have to be weighed against security and law enforcement concerns, and an international framework is required to both encourage and reward data sharing, the report says.

The report is available online at: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=18737


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Academy of Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Academy of Sciences. "Microbial forensics sector not yet prepared for fulsome response to global biological outbreaks." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140609122052.htm>.
National Academy of Sciences. (2014, June 9). Microbial forensics sector not yet prepared for fulsome response to global biological outbreaks. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140609122052.htm
National Academy of Sciences. "Microbial forensics sector not yet prepared for fulsome response to global biological outbreaks." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140609122052.htm (accessed August 20, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola-Hit Sierra Leone's Freetown a City on Edge

Ebola-Hit Sierra Leone's Freetown a City on Edge

AFP (Aug. 19, 2014) Residents of Sierra Leone's capital voice their fears as the Ebola virus sweeps through west Africa. Duration: 00:56 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
101-Year-Old Working Man Has All The Advice You Need

101-Year-Old Working Man Has All The Advice You Need

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) Herman Goldman has worked at the same lighting store for almost 75 years. Find out his secrets to a happy, productive life. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

AP (Aug. 19, 2014) Four Texas high school football programs are trying out an experimental system designed to diagnose concussions on the field. The technology is in response to growing concern over head trauma in America's most watched sport. (Aug. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
American Ebola Patient Apparently Improving, Outbreak Is Not

American Ebola Patient Apparently Improving, Outbreak Is Not

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) Nancy Writebol, an American missionary who contracted Ebola, is apparently getting better, according to her husband. The outbreak, however, is not. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins