Lab Matters Winter 2019 - Page 26

PUBLIC HEALTH PREPAREDNESS AND RESPONSE CBP Labs Counter Threats at US Borders By Tyler Wolford, MS, senior specialist, Laboratory Response Network Despite increased awareness and intelligence gathering, improved surveillance systems and expanded detection capabilities, biological and chemical threats agents continue to threaten public health. Examples are not hard to find. In 2013, a Canadian researcher illegally transported 17 vials of live Brucella into China in his luggage. More recently in 2018, a suspected terrorist was arrested in Germany in possession of ricin and plans to carry out a biological attack. Sentinel Lab at Borders US Laboratory Response Network (LRN) laboratories maintain capability to identify biological and chemical threat agents such as anthrax and ricin in clinical and environmental samples. Within US borders, LRN laboratories depend on first responders and sentinel clinical laboratories to recognize and rule out threats or refer samples to the LRN for confirmatory testing. At US borders and ports of entry, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) assumes this duty. As the largest federal law enforcement agency under the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), CBP has broad responsibility for safeguarding US borders. CBP agents are responsible for screening passengers, pedestrians, vehicles, shipping containers and imports at US ports of entry for illicit goods and inadmissible people. If biological or chemical threat material is suspected or a person is exhibiting infectious disease symptoms (e.g., travelers from regions where highly pathogenic disease is prevalent), samples are collected, packaged and sent to CBP and LRN laboratories for further testing. Laboratories in the CBP Office of Information and Technology, Laboratories and Scientific Services Division (LSS) provide forensic and scientific testing to support enforcement of trade and narcotics laws and to detect and intercept weapons of mass destruction and other hazardous materials. Partners in Detection Although CBP laboratories have extensive capabilities in chemical threat detection, they depend on partnerships with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and LRN for biological threat detection. When CBP agents identify a suspected biological threat agent or infectious person, they contact the FBI Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Directorate or local health officials to discuss threat level, risk mitigation and sampling procedures. The sample is transported to the laboratory for confirmatory testing. But public safety demands continual advances in threat detection systems and processes. To this end, APHL is developing a memorandum of understanding with DHS to ensure standardized systems and processes for biological threat detection at US ports of entry. Concurrently CBP is improving training, technology, risk analysis and threat visualization at ports of entry. n APHL is developing a memorandum of understanding with DHS to ensure standardized systems and processes for biological threat detection at US ports of entry. 24 LAB MATTERS Winter 2019 PublicHealthLabs @APHL APHL.org