DoD gives grant for bioweapon detector research

An assistant professor from Albany Medical College was recently awarded $3.1 million from the U.S. Department of Defense to research the detectable differences between naturally-occurring bacteria and that grown for terrorist purposes.

Dr. Karsten Hazlett, an assistant professor at the Center for Immunology and Microbial Disease at Albany Medical College, was awarded the five year grant for his work in determining biological differences between natural and lab-grown Francisella tularensis, the bacterium that causes tularemia, according to

Both the United States and the former Soviet Union developed a weaponized version of Francisella tularensis during the Cold War. Tularemia, which can be contracted naturally through deer fly and tick bites or contact with infected animals, can cause a range of symptoms from skin ulcers to pneumonia.

Hazlett also plans to study Acinetobacter baumanii, an emerging antibiotic-resistant bacterium that is known to cause deadly infections. The bacteria caused serious infections among wounded soldiers in Iraq, reports. Some estimates state the gram-negative bacterium is causing the deaths of tens of thousands of hospital patients every year in the United States.

Hazlett said that his research will aid both national security and vaccine development.

“Knowing how certain bacteria respond in different settings and in various hosts can aid us in making vaccines that have higher success rates,” Hazlett said, reports.

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