If the contemporary problems brought about by the convergence of human and animal health are to be adequately addressed, comparative studies will need a national focus and sustained attention.
Scientific research and the investigators who carry out that work must be a central part of the animal health framework. Such research is critical to reducing animal disease and suffering and to the development of new products, treatments, and techniques for animals that indirectly benefit society. The efficiency and productivity of animal agriculture over the years has been a function of successful research on animal nutrition, effective production systems, and reducing the incidence of animal diseases.
Of particular note in the context of discussing research on animal health is the issue of containment facilities. Studies of infectious diseases, whether of interest solely for animal health or as animal models of human disease, need to be undertaken in a manner that ensures safety for the operator as well as the general public. As such, there are specified containment levels for the various organisms that mandate certain structural and procedural necessities. Containment facilities are classified as Biosafety Levels 1 through 4, with 4 being the most restrictive (HHS, 1999). Biosafety level 3 (BSL-3 or BSL-3 Ag) provides the high degree of containment that is needed when studying a variety of organisms with a recognized potential for significant detrimental impact on animal or human health or on natural ecosystems (Box 2-3).
This level of containment requires stringent measures such as protective clothing and respirators; filtered air supply and exhaust; sterilization of materials originating from the facility, including animal waste; and strictly controlled entry and exit. The number of BSL-3 laboratories in the United States is limited; in particular, there are very few BSL-3 Ag entities due to their demanding and expensive engineering and construction requirements (USDA, 2002b). Consequently, even with full institutional volition and funding to undertake research with certain agents, such as classical swine fever, monkeypox, or tularemia, studies can only be conducted if the building meets the design standards required. In 2003, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease announced awards to 11 universities to build biosafety laboratories as part of a regional and national network for infectious disease research under its Biodefense Research Agenda. Of those selected, two of the regional centers are associated with veterinary science: the University of Missouri-Columbia and Colorado State University. Each plans to build a BSL-3 facility.