USAPHC lab capabilities enhanced to improve health protection

By Jane Gervasoni, Public Affairs Office, U.S. Army Public Health CommandSeptember 12, 2014

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U.S. Army Public Health Command laboratories around the world will soon have additional molecular diagnostic equipment that strengthens their biosurveillance capabilities.

Public health threats including vector-borne diseases such as malaria and West Nile virus are widespread. The increased ability to rapidly identify these and other public health threats will be available using this new equipment.

The equipment also will standardize the ability of the six laboratories USAPHC operates to analyze and interpret data related to disease activity and threats to human and animal health.

In turn, making disease and vector identification easier, faster and more accurate significantly expands Soldier protection from public health threats.

Equipping USAPHC laboratories with this cutting-edge diagnostic equipment results from a partnership with the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.

"The two JPEO-CBD programs providing equipment, maintenance and training of personnel are the Joint United States Forces Korea Portal and Integrated Threat Recognition, known as JUPITR, and the Global Biosurveillance Technology Initiative," explained Maj. Michael Desena, USAPHC liaison with the JPEO-CBD. "This collaborative approach advances cooperation initiatives between the medical and chem-bio communities."

"All six USAPHC laboratories, as well as a new environmental testing facility being established on the Korean peninsula, will receive the state-of-the-art laboratory testing equipment," said Lt. Col. Kelly Halverson, USAPHC Laboratory Services Portfolio director. "All the laboratories will now have the same analytical capabilities, ensuring consistent and comparable laboratory results no matter which laboratory performs the analysis."

"The need for biosurveillance and diagnostic laboratory capabilities in the Korean peninsula led to this partnership. It will provide the ability to generate and share public health information and conduct real-time U.S. and Republic of Korea collaboration," Desena added.

The partnership with the JPEO-CBD has other benefits as well.

"Training on the equipment for USAPHC personnel, as well as maintenance of the equipment, will be provided by JPEO-CBD," according to Desena. "Laboratory personnel will be equipped to work in any of the laboratories around the world performing analyses with state-of-the-art equipment."

"The new equipment will enhance information sharing around the globe," said Halverson. "It will also allow us to support new customers.

"This equipment will allow us to test environmental, occupational health and public health threats … with a high degree of accuracy," said Halverson. "Our scientists will be able to validate their results using more than one type of equipment and if necessary, further studies can be performed by laboratories in the U.S."

The USAPHC has additional capabilities that will benefit overseas laboratories and their personnel.

"The Army Public Health Command, as a partner in the biosurveillance effort, also provides training and certification on international shipping and transport of samples through its Environmental Health Engineering Portfolio in additional to laboratory analyses," explained Halverson. "This is a collaborative effort that delivers the best possible services to protect our Soldiers and Army civilians worldwide."

This biosurveillance capability adds to the global network of military laboratories in which the USAPHC and the Department of Defense will have the ability to collect, ship, receive, analyze and report on environmental and public health samples from around the globe, said Halverson.

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