search in and diagnostics of foreign animal diseases and zoonotic diseases.2 It would serve as a critical world reference laboratory for identifying emerging and unknown disease threats and thus would be an important asset for securing the health, wealth, and security of our nation.
As noted by the previous National Research Council committee that evaluated the DHS site-specific risk assessment (SSRA) in 2010, the planned NBAF would bring new capabilities and risks for the United States (NRC, 2010). First, locating the NBAF in Manhattan, Kansas, demonstrates an important U.S. policy and philosophy shift regarding the conduct of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) research on the U.S. mainland. The United States has been free of FMD since 1929 (USDA-APHIS, 2007), and research on live FMD virus3 (FMDv) has not been permitted on the U.S. mainland since 19374 because it is a highly infectious viral disease of cloven-hoofed animals and constitutes a major threat to the livestock industry. Second, the NBAF would conduct substantial research and training activities with large animals that are infected with biosafety level 4 (BSL-4)5 pathogens, which would be important for understanding zoonotic diseases. Having BSL-4 capabilities for large animal research will be critical as new and unknown threats emerge. When operational, the NBAF would be the world’s fourth facility to have BSL-4 laboratories capable of large animal research: the others are in Geelong, Australia; Winnipeg, Canada; and Insel Riems, Germany. The one in Germany is undergoing laboratory commissioning as of this writing (Thomas Mettenleiter, Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut, personal communication, May 11, 2012).
2 A zoonotic disease or infection is transmissible between animals and humans and is caused by a bacterial, viral, parasitic, or unconventional agent. Zoonoses are a public health concern. Many zoonoses also affect animal health, thus preventing the efficient production of food animals and creating obstacles for the international trade of animals and animal products (WHO, 2012; IOM and NRC, 2009).
3 Foot-and-mouth disease virus is a BSL-3 agent. Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL) states that BSL-3 is appropriate for “agents with a known potential for aerosol transmission, for agents that may cause serious and potentially lethal infections and that are indigenous or exotic in origin” (CDC, 2009). The BSL-3 agriculture (BSL-3Ag) designation is used for animal research facilities involving BSL-3 biological agents (such as FMDv) that present a risk of causing great economic harm if they infect the indigenous animal population (NRC, 2005).
4 In accordance with 21 USC Section 113a, live FMDv is not permitted on any part of the mainland of the United States unless the Secretary of Agriculture permits otherwise.
5BMBL states that “exotic agents that pose a high individual risk of life-threatening disease [in humans] by infectious aerosols and for which no treatment is available are restricted to high containment laboratories that meet biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) standards” (CDC, 2009).