According to Wood, Rickettsia prowazekii is a species of bacteria responsible for epidemic typhus, an infectious disease transmitted to humans by lice. Epidemic typhus is a highly communicable disease that can cause high fever, rash, muscle pain, severe headache, delirium and even death. During World War I and World War II, epidemic typhus killed millions of people.
In research initiated by Dr. Herbert Winkler over 30 years ago, USA scientists have worked to establish a productive Select Agent Program centered on Rickettsia. Within the last six years, the Select Agent Program at USA has expanded to include the study of Burkholderia. Burkholderia pseudomallei, which is found in soil and water, is a causative agent of melioidosis, an infectious disease. It can cause lung problems in humans, ranging from mild bronchitis to severe pneumonia and even death.
The new, 25,800-square-foot Laboratory of Infectious Diseases building (LID) will be constructed in the USA Technology and Research Park located at the north side of campus. It will replace the current Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) laboratory building, the Laboratory of Molecular Biology. The new facility will more than double the current Biosafety Level 3 research capability at USA.
The LID building will include Biosafety Level 2 (BSL-2) labs and Biosafety Level 3 labs, as well as office and support space. BSL-2 lab space will be used to study standard disease-causing bacteria, while the BSL-3 lab space will be used to study agents of bioterrorism that seriously threaten human health.
Having separate BSL-2 and BSL-3 lab areas under one roof will simplify and accelerate the pace of research while allowing researchers to work in close proximity and foster collaborative efforts.
The new facility will incorporate state-of-the-art safety and security standards. Energy-efficient “green” principles will also be implemented into the building’s design. The project will provide safer working conditions, a more comfortable environment, natural daylighting, and will include sensors and software to maximize energy efficiency.
The construction of the research laboratory will stimulate the economy of the Gulf Coast region by providing both short-term engineering and construction jobs as well as long-term research positions, including faculty, research technology positions and opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students.
Estimated completion for the facility is March 2013.