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For the Public Health by Thomas M. Kollars Jr., Ph.D.
New technologies evaluated at GSUs Biodefense and Infectious Disease Lab
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    Infectious diseases have a terrible effect on humanity that is rivaled only by war and starvation. There continues to be great disparity between treatment of infectious diseases in developed nations and the challenges to treatment in developing nations.
    If five percent of America’s children died from dengue fever, or if Americans had to spend one-third of their annual income to fight malaria, can you imagine the uproar?  How would that affect our families, or the amount of pressure we put on our government and health care officials?  What would be the effect on our economy?  Remember, we are all in this together. As advanced as our public health system is, recent experience has shown us that Americans, too, are susceptible to infectious diseases such as HIV, Lyme disease, West Nile virus, Avian influenza and Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria (MRSA), to name a few. 
    We can also become victims of a bioterrorist attack.  The anthrax mailing attack in 2001 caused deaths, fear and billions of dollars worth of economic damage. Some pathogens are even more deadly than anthrax and would kill nearly 100 percent of any children who are exposed. What a nightmare! Although our government has allocated billions of dollars to prevent this, there are still gaps our biological defense.
    Our objective at the Biodefense and Infectious Disease Laboratory (BIDL) in the Jiann-Ping His College of Public Health is to identify gaps in our nation’s biodefense and evaluate new methods of infectious disease control.
    For example, the BIDL has teamed with MIT Holdings, Inc. and MEVLABS, Inc. to evaluate a break-through technology called ProVector™.  ProVector is a device that uses visual, olfactory and chemical cues to attract mosquitoes, which feed on chemicals in ProVector to reduce malaria inside the mosquito. The BIDL is adapting this technology to control dengue fever and West Nile virus, too. It’s environmentally safe, can be used in homes and was designed to be affordable in developing nations. While national foundations are searching for effective vaccines and other drugs, ProVector may allow us to save the lives of thousands of people every year.
    One gap in America’s biodefense is our inability to accurately determine where many of the organisms go in the environment after a bioterrorist attack. The BIDL is working on a grant to study West Nile virus that incorporates Bioagent Transport and Environmental Modeling System (BioTEMS™), a technology that predicts and identifies where pathogens survive. There is great interest by government agencies, private industry and universities in exploring how BioTEMS technology can help protect human populations.
    The BIDL is a new and growing part of the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health at Georgia Southern University. As we develop and evaluate new technologies, we seek to serve Georgia, our nation and the global community.

    Thomas M. Kollars, Jr., Ph.D., an associate professor of epidemiology, serves as the director of the Biodefense and Infectious Disease Laboratory.
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