Status Brief

Developmental Milestones/Developments to Date:

Current Assessment/State of the Field:




Benjamin, Georges C.Chemical and Biological Terrorism: Planning for the WorstPhysician Executive Volume 26 Issue 1. 80. January/February 2000.

  1. “Chemical or biological terrorism is the use of pathogenic microbes or toxins derived from plants, animals, microbes, or chemical agents to achieve terror.” – page 80
  2. “Chemical and biological weapons, like nuclear weapons, are categorized as weapons of mass destruction (WMD) because of the high number of potential victims that can result from their use.” – page 80
  3. ”While any chemical can be weaponized, the chemical agents traditionally of concern fall into four categories: nerve agents like sarin, which create an anticholinergic-like syndrome; vesicants like mustard gas, that cause a blistering or burn-like syndrome; cyanide, which interrupts aerobic metabolism; and riot control agents such as mace, which generally cause incapacitation.” – page 80
  4. ”Biological agents act like chemical agents but have a slower onset of action. Agents of concern include Ricin.” – page 81
  5. “The ideal bioweapon is hard to detect from the usual microbial flora, has person-to-person spread, and is easy to aerosolize. There are two groups of organisms of public health concern: those that cause a high morbidity or a high mortality.” – page 81
  6. ”Examples of high morbidity organisms include salmonella, cholera, or E. coli. The number of highly toxic organisms is fortunately quite low and includes anthrax, smallpox, and the viruses that cause hemorrhagic fevers, plague, brucellosis, and tularemia.” – page 81
  7. ”Clues that biological terrorist events have occurred include an unexplained increase in respiratory cases or deaths, or dead and dying animals. Epidemiological clues include diseases with the wrong mode of transmission, which occur in an inappropriate geographic distribution or infect a new or novel population.” – page 81
  8. ”Components of a biological/chemical terrorism disaster plan: plan how to identify the threat; develop an effective public health disease surveillance system; link the public health system and the traditional medical care delivery system; develop command and control systems; determine hospital bed availability; define disease containment, isolation, and quarantine procedures; plan how to obtain extra life support equipment such as respirators; plan how to train clinical staff to identify high-risk unusual diseases; ensure non-clinical staff are trained on the management of suspicious packages and mail; identify experts; plan simple handling and transport; plan how to communicate high risk information; manage medical examiner cases; and maintain a crime scene.” – page 81
  9. ”Effective disease control strategies such as case finding, decontamination, prophylaxis and vaccination, and quarantine must be defined.” – page 82

Chemical, WMD, Bioterrorism, Public Health, Military, Sarin, Japan, Ricin, E. coli, Cholera, Salmonella, Anthrax, Smallpox, Hemorrhagic Fever, Plague, Brucellosis, Tularemia, Prophylaxis, Vaccination, Quarantine


Young, Alison, “Georgia Lab Workers Exposed to Bioterror Agent,Atlanta Journal Constitution, January 30, 2008.

  1. “Hundreds of laboratory workers across the country -including 57 in Georgia- were potentially exposed to a weakened bioterrorism agent when samples were mishandled as part of a voluntary readiness test, state and federal health officials said.”
  2. “At 16 of Georgia’s 27 clinical labs participating in the test, workers failed to follow proper handling procedures and were potentially exposed to a vaccine strain of ”Brucella abortus RB51.””
  3. “So far, the CDC identified 916 workers in 254 clinical labs who were potentially exposed to Brucella during the nationwide Laboratory Preparedness Survey last fall.”
  4. “Twice a year, labs that voluntarily participate in the program are sent samples of various disease-causin organisms.  SInce 2006, the tests have included weakened bioterrorism organisms after the labs said they needed more realistic exercises of their preparedness, CDC officials said.”
  5. “The testing kits included written instructions stating the samples should be handled inside a special safety cabinet and within the protective barriers of a Biosafety Level 3 lab.  Despiet these instructions, some lab workers handled the samples in high risk ways, even sniffing open culture plates as they sought clues to what was growing on them, records show.  Certain odors are associated with some bacteria.”

Brucellosis, Lab Safety, CDC, BSL, Emergency Response


Ziff, Deborah, Seely, Ron, “UW-Madison professor barred from lab for potentially dangerous experiments,” May 11, 2010, Wisconsin State Journal, last checked 10/30/2011.

  1. “A UW-Madison professor who studies an infectious disease lost his laboratory privileges for five years after conducting unauthorized experiments with a potentially dangerous drug-resistant germ.”
  2. “One person who worked in professor Gary Splitter’s lab got brucellosis but university officials don’t know if that individual, who has since recovered, caught the strain used in the unauthorized experiments.”
  3. “Brucellosis is a disease that is usually found in farm animals but can spread to humans and cause flu-like symptoms or worse.”
  4. “The 2007 experiments, which the National Institutes of Health calls a ‘major action violation,’ in part prompted the university to beef up its biological safety oversight. The university was also fined $40,000.”
  5. “Splitter, a tenured professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine, won’t be allowed to work in a lab for five years because of the violation.”
  6. “Splitter said he was not aware of the unauthorized experiments, which he said were conducted by graduate students in his lab, and that the university did not properly educate researchers about guidelines for working with antibiotic-resistant strains.”
  7. “His lab created antibiotic-resistant strains of brucellosis and inserted them into mice in 2007 and possibly earlier, university officials said, without approval from local or federal agencies. The concern is that if someone contracted the antibiotic-resistant version of the disease created in the lab, treatment might have been more difficult.”
  8. “The university learned of the stock of antibiotic-resistant strains after a round of university-wide lab inspections by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They began investigating Splitter’s lab in early 2008.
  9. “University officials said evidence gathered during the investigation contradicted Splitter’s claim that he was unaware of the work being done by his students.”
  10. “Splitter said part of the problem was understaffing in the university’s bio-safety program, which is charged with training scientists about regulations. At the time of the experiments, he said, there were only two people employed in the program and neither were trained biologists.”
  11. “In the past year, UW-Madison has hired five biological safety officers and a new director, said Bill Mellon, associate dean for research policy.”

Brucellosis, Lab Safety, Misconduct, Oversight, CDC, Academia, Drug Resistance, Scientist


Basken, Paul, “Scientist, Banned From Lab, Blames U. of Wisconsin for Biosafety Lapse,” May 19, 2010, Chronicle of Higher Education, last checked 10/30/2011.

  1. “University of Wisconsin officials suspended a professor’s laboratory privileges over unapproved tests involving an infectious disease, and said they’ve sent a strong message about accountability for hazardous materials.”
  2. “The five-year ban on hands-on lab work “does not restrict other people from submitting grants; it doesn’t restrict me from being an investigator on a grant; it doesn’t restrict me from working with others on grants or on science,” Dr. Splitter, a tenured professor of pathobiological sciences and a veterinarian, told The Chronicle.”
  3. “The case, which dates back to a routine inspection of Dr. Splitter’s lab by federal officials nearly three years ago, has garnered national attention in the past week as an example of concerns that the government may not be doing enough to guard against accidental or intentional spreads of pandemic disease.”
  4. “In the case of Dr. Splitter, the work involved the pursuit of a vaccine for brucellosis, a disease that humans contract from farm animals. Its effects are usually limited to chronic flu-like symptoms, though complications make it fatal in about 3 percent of cases. The disease infects about 500,000 people a year, mostly in developing countries, where the months-long process of treatment with antibiotics can be prohibitive.”
  5. “Ensuing investigations, which involved interviews of Dr. Splitter’s graduate students by federal inspectors and a nine-month closure of his lab, led to an agreement with federal officials last October in which the university paid the $40,000 fine. The university disclosed this month its decision to suspend Dr. Splitter’s laboratory privileges for a five-year period, ending in 2013. (He has not been allowed in his lab since 2008 because of the investigation, so the university is counting those years as part of his suspension.)”
  6. “William S. Mellon, associate dean for research policy at the University of Wisconsin at Madison Graduate School, said the university acted to penalize Dr. Splitter after concluding that Dr. Splitter was aware that new federal rules imposed after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States required him to seek specific government approval for his work with antibiotic-resistant genes.”
  7. “It appears, Mr. Mellon said, that Dr. Splitter—who has spent 32 years at the University of Wisconsin and is one of only about five experts worldwide working on a vaccine for brucellosis—simply never accepted the new requirements imposed on researchers. “Those are hard transitions to make—I understand that,” Mr. Mellon said.”
  8. “Investigations, both by federal officials and by outside analysts hired by the university, found the campus’s Institutional Biosafety Committee ‘was an organization in disarray,’ Dr. Splitter said.”
  9. “Mr. Mellon said he recognized that the case highlighted some shortcomings in the university’s operations and that the university has responded, hiring five new biological-safety officers and a new director for the operation. He said it’s ‘silly,’ however, for Dr. Splitter to deny his own responsibility.”
  10. “One of the graduate students, discussing the case with The Chronicle on the condition he not be identified, said the case pointed out the confusion over regulations and the hassles that await him if he decides to continue working with hazardous agents.”
  11. “The university’s penalty against Dr. Splitter became public the same week the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published an analysis suggesting that the more restrictive biosafety laws imposed after the 2001 attacks had led to far fewer published studies in the field and accelerated the rate of researchers turning to other fields of study.”

Brucellosis, Lab Safety, Misconduct, Oversight, CDC, Academia, Drug Resistance, Scientist


Gregg, Kelsey, “Unauthorized Brucellosis Experiments, University of Wisconsin-Madison,” Posted May 21, 2010, Federation of American Scientists, Biosecurity Blog, Last checked 10/30/11.

  1. ”Professor of pathobiological sciences, Gary Splitter, DVM, PhD, was suspended from laboratory work above BSL-1 until 2013 because unauthorized work was conducted with an antibiotic-resistant strain of Brucella, a select agent, by his graduate student in 2007.”
  2. ”Brucella bacteria can cause the disease brucellosis, which presents as a prolonged non-specific febrile illness in humans accompanied by chills, sweats, headache, fatigue, myalgias (muscle pain), arthralgias (joint pain), and anorexia.”
  3. ”This unauthorized research is even more egregious because it was with an antibiotic-resistant select agent, making this research of dual use concern.”
  4. ”Dr. Splitter claims that the incident was the result of an understaffed biosafety committee and ‘The University of Wisconsin fail[ing] to provide the right education.’ Dr. Splitter, while culpable, may be right that this incident ‘… was a major meltdown by the university.’ Put together, the unauthorized work and a past case of brucellosis acquired in Dr. Splitter’s laboratory, indicate personal and systemic failures to educate laboratory personal about biosafety level procedures and regulations. This incident highlights the need for continued efforts to educate students and scientists alike about research of concern and general laboratory biosafety.”

Brucellosis, Misconduct, BSL, Dual use, Oversight, Biosafety


Stewart, Linda, “Attempt to Infect Herd with Dead Calf Probed,” Belfast Telegraph, March 5, 2011, p. 8.

  1. “Criminals have attempted to infect a herd of cattle with a virulent livestock disease by dumping part of a calf carcass in silage that was being used to feed heifers in Co Armagh.”
  2. ”Department of Agriculture and Rural Development vets have joined forces with police to investigate, as the calf leg that was found may have been infected with brucellosis and could pass the disease on to the heifers.”
  3. ”Police were called in last year following a spate of sinister incidents. An infected calf foetus was left at the home of a department official, while another was found slashed open and sprinkled with cattle feed near a feeding trough at a Co Armagh farm.”
  4. ”The calf carcass has been submitted to the AFBI laboratory for DNA testing. The cattle that may have come into contact with the carcass will also be tested for brucellosis.”
  5. ”There have been several incidents in Armagh in the last year that have led to local hotspots of disease.”

Brucellosis, Law Enforcement, Northern Ireland, Zoonotic


Togan, Turhan, et al. “The Impact of Acute Brucellosis on Mean Platelet Volume and Red Blood Cell Distribution.” Jundishapur Journal of Microbiology, Volume 8 Issue 2. 1. February 2015.

  1. ”Brucellosis is a frequently encountered zoonotic disease in the developing countries, and considered as an important public health problem.” – page 1
  2. ”People can be contracted especially through contaminated meat, milk, and dairy products as well as direct contact with the excrements or body secretions of the infected animals.” – page 1
  3. ”Brucellosis is an inflammatory disease that can infect any organs or systems in the body.” – page 1
  4. ”Besides leukocyte and high sensitive C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), the current study investigated whether the values of mean platelet volume (MPV) and red blood cell distribution (RDW) could be considered as surrogate markers during the illness phase.” – page 1
  5. ”MPV reveals the presence of inflammatory burden and disease activity in many diseases including preeclampsia, acute pancreatitis, unstable angina, myocardial infarction, and cases of systemic inflammation such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.” – page 1
  6. ”Various studies revealed the clinical implications of RDW about the presence of various pathologies such as inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, pulmonary embolism, and coronary artery disease.” – page 2
  7. ”In the clinic, the patients diagnosed with brucellosis had high fever, chills, shivering fatigue, sweating, and muscle and joint aches.” – page 2
  8. ”The current study results suggested that these values, MPV and RDW, do not play an important role in the diagnosis and treatment of brucellosis.” – page 5
  9. ”Among other inflammatory markers, high CRP is still the most valuable marker for the treatment and follow-up of brucellosis.” – page 5

Brucellosis, Public Health, Developing Countries, Zoonotic