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    Laboratory Services Section
    MC 1947
    PO Box 149347 Austin, TX 78714-9347
    1100 W. 49th Street
    Austin, TX 78756-3199

    Phone: (512) 776-7318
    Fax: (512) 776-7294

    Phone Us Toll Free at:
    (888) 963-7111, ext. 7318

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Biological Threat Fact Sheets

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Anthrax

AgentBacillus anthracis

There are three clinical forms of B. anthracis which are determined by route of entry:

  • Pulmonary or Inhalation—BT implications
  • Cutaneous—most common
  • Gastrointestinal

Key Characteristics

  • Aerobic or facultative anaerobe
  • Spore-forming
  • Gram-positive rods
  • Non-hemolytic (gamma)
  • Non-motile

Acceptable Specimens:

  • Isolate
  • Cutaneous anthrax: sterile swab from vesicular or eschar stage
  • Gastrointestinal anthrax: Blood culture, stool (≥5 g) or rectal swab
  • Inhalational anthrax: Blood culture, lower respiratory specimen (>1ml)
  • Environmental samples submitted by law enforcement personnel

 

Anthrax

Specimen Submission:

All specimens must be triple contained in accordance with federal shipping regulations. All clinical specimens must be accompanied by a specimen submission form (G-2B). Prior to submission, please call (512) 458-7185 or (888) 963-7111, ext. 7815 toll free.

 

Brucellosis

Agent: Brucella abortus, Brucella melitensis, Brucella suis, and Brucella canis

  • Aerosols of Brucella spp. are considered to be highly infectious.
  • B. melitensis produces the most severe and acute form of disease.
  • B. abortus produces a more chronic form of disease.
  • B. suis may also cause severe acute disease, but is associated with osteomyelitis.
  • B. canis rarely causes disease in humans.

Key Characteristics:

  • Small gram-negative coccobacilli
  • Slow-grower, colonies appear after 48-72 hrs of incubation
  • Non-motile
  • Oxidase positive
  • Urease positive
  • X and V factors not required

Acceptable Specimens:

  • Isolate
  • Blood culture
  • Bone marrow
  • Tissue sample
  • Environmental samples submitted by law enforcement personnel

 

Brucella sp.

Specimen Submission:

All specimens must be triple contained in accordance with federal shipping regulations. All clinical specimens must be accompanied by a specimen submission form (G-2B). Prior to submission, please call (512) 458-7185 or (888) 963-7111, ext. 7815 toll free.

 

Botulism

Agent: Clostridium botulinum

There are three forms of botulism:

  • Foodborne (classic form)
  • Wound
  • Intestinal (infant and adult)

Key Points:

  • Please have physician consult with the Infectious Disease Control Unit (IDCU) prior to sample collection:
    • (800) 252-8239 (“press 1”)
     

Acceptable Specimens:

  • Stool
    • 10-50 grams recommended for an adult
    • ≥5 grams recommended for an infant
    • Do not freeze
     
  • Serum
    • 10ml minimum for an adult is recommended
    • Not recommended for infant testing
     
  • Wound
    • Tissue from a biopsy or swab from deep in the wound
     
  • Food
    • Only tested if associated with a confirmed botulism case
     

Shipping conditions:

  • Stools and serum
    • Should be shipped cold (on cold packs, not dry ice) by overnight courier
     
  • Wound
    • Ship tissue in anaerobic atmosphere
    • Swab in anaerobic transport for swabs
    • Ship without refrigeration
     
  • Food
    • Should be shipped in original container under current storage conditions (Example: cold storage submitted cold; frozen storage submitted frozen; etc)
     

Specimen Submission:

All specimens must be triple contained in accordance with federal shipping regulations. All clinical specimens must be accompanied by a specimen submission form (G-2B). Prior to submission, please call (512) 458-7185 or (888) 963-7111, ext. 7815 toll free.

 

Tularemia

Agent: Francisella tularemia

  • Aerosols of F. tularensis. are considered to be highly infectious.
  • Two subspecies cause human disease:
    • F. tularensis subsp. tularensis (highly virulent)
    • F. tularensis subsp. holarctica (less virulent)
     

Key Characteristics:

  • Tiny gram-negative coccobacilli
  • Slow-grower, colonies appear after 48-72 hrs of incubation
  • Usually requires cysteine supplementation
  • Non-motile
  • Oxidase negative
  • Urease negative
  • Beta-lactamase positive
  • X and V factors not required

Acceptable Specimens:

  • Isolate
  • Blood culture
  • Biopsied tissue or scraping of an ulcer (preferable)
  • Swab of an ulcer (acceptable alternative)
  • Tissue aspirate
  • Environmental samples submitted by law enforcement personnel

 

Tularemia

Specimen Submission:

All specimens must be triple contained in accordance with federal shipping regulations. All clinical specimens must be accompanied by a specimen submission form (G-2B). Prior to submission, please call (512) 458-7185 or (888) 963-7111, ext. 7815 toll free.

 

Plague

Agent: Yersinia pestis

  • Three forms of plague:
    • Bubonic: infected lymph nodes
    • Septicemic: blood-borne organisms
    • Pneumonic: transmissible person-to-person; deadliest
     

Key Characteristics:

  • Gram-negative coccobacilli with bipolar staining
  • Colonies appear after 24-48 hrs of incubation
  • Grows better at 22-25°C
  • Non-motile
  • Oxidase negative
  • Urease negative

Acceptable Specimens:

  • Isolate
  • Bubonic: Aspirate of involved tissue (bubonic) or biopsied specimen: Tissue or aspirates that can be obtained for culture include liver, spleen, bone marrow, lymph node, and/or lung
  • Septicemic: blood
  • Pneumonic: Bronchial wash or transtracheal aspirate (>1 ml)
  • Environmental samples submitted by law enforcement personnel

 

Yersinia pestis

Specimen Submission:

All specimens must be triple contained in accordance with federal shipping regulations. All clinical specimens must be accompanied by a specimen submission form (G-2B). Prior to submission, please call (512) 458-7185 or (888) 963-7111, ext. 7815 toll free.

 

Melioidosis / Glanders

Agent: Burholderia pseudomallei and Burkholderia mallei

  • B. pseudomallei- causative agent of melioidosis
  • B. mallei – causative agent of glanders

Key Characteristics:

  • B. pseudomallei
    • Gram-negative rods with bipolar staining
    • Oxidase positive
    • Indole negative
    • Motile
    • Resistant to colistin/polymyxin B
     
  • B. mallei
    • Faintly staining, gram-negative coccobacilli
    • Oxidase variable
    • Indole negative
    • Non-motile
    • Resistant to colistin/polymyxin B
     

Acceptable Specimens:

  • Isolate
  • Blood
  • Urine
  • Abscesses, tissue aspirates, fluids
  • Environmental samples submitted by law enforcement personnel

Specimen Submission:

All specimens must be triple contained in accordance with federal shipping regulations. All clinical specimens must be accompanied by a specimen submission form (G-2B). Prior to submission, please call (512) 458-7185 or (888) 963-7111, ext. 7815 toll free.

 

Ricin Toxin

Agent: Ricin toxin

  • Ricin toxin is derived from castor beans, Ricinus communis.
  • Medical tests to confirm that a person has been exposed to ricin are not widely available.
  • No antidote exists for ricin.

Acceptable Specimens:

  • Clinical:
    • Texas Department of State Health Services, Austin, does not currently accept clinical samples for ricin toxin testing.
    • Serum (acute and convalescent – 2 weeks apart) testing is performed at the CDC
    • Not indicated unless a known exposure has occurred
     
  • Environmental: food, beverage, soil, water, powder, swabs, wipes, paper, plant material
    • Submitted by law enforcement personnel only
     

Specimen collection:

  • Collect specimens in plastic containers and be triple contained in accordance with federal shipping
  • Store specimens at room temperature or refrigerate
  • NEVER freeze or heat samples suspected of containing ricin toxin, as this will denature the toxin

Specimen Submission:

Prior to submission, please call (512) 458-7185 or (888) 963-7111, ext. 7815 toll free.

Castor beans
Castor leaf

 

Staphylococcal Enterotoxin B (SEB)

Agent: Staphylococcal enterotoxin B (SEB)

  • SEB is one of several exotoxins produced by Staphylococcus aureus.
  • SEB is the enterotoxin that most commonly causes classic food poisoning.

Acceptable Specimens:

  • Clinical: Texas Department of State Health Services, Austin, does not currently accept clinical sample for SEB testing.
  • Environmental: paper, powder, swabs, wipes, water, soil, food, beverage
    • Submitted by law enforcement personnel only
     

Specimen Submission:

Prior to submission, please call (512) 458-7185 or (888) 963-7111, ext. 7815 toll free.

 

Q Fever

Agent: Coxiella burnetii

  • C. burnetii is an obligate intracellular organism and cannot be cultured on routine bacteriologic media.
  • Due to the extreme infectivity of C. burnetii, Level A (Sentinel) laboratories should not attempt to culture this organism.

Acceptable Specimens:

  • Blood - Collect blood in EDTA (lavender) or sodium citrate (blue) and maintain at 4°C for storage and shipping for PCR or special cultures

Specimen Submission:

All specimens must be triple contained in accordance with federal shipping regulations. All clinical specimens must be accompanied by a specimen submission form (G-2B). Prior to submission, please call (512) 458-7185 or (888) 963-7111, ext. 7815 toll free.

 

       
 
 
Biological Threat Response • 24/7 Emergency Phone: (512) 689-5537
Chemical Threat Response • 24/7 Emergency Phone: (512) 689-9945
  
Last updated September 15, 2010