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The Role of the Clinical Laboratory in Managing Chemical or Biological Terrorism

The Role of the Clinical Laboratory in Managing Chemical or Biological Terrorism,Saeed A. Jortani,James W. Snyder,Roland Valdes

The Role of the Clinical Laboratory in Managing Chemical or Biological Terrorism   (Citations: 9)
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Background: Domestic and international acts of terror- ism using chemicals and pathogens as weapons have recently attracted much attention because of several hoaxes and real incidents. Clinical laboratories, espe- cially those affiliated with major trauma centers, should be prepared to respond rapidly by providing diagnostic tests for the detection and identification of specific agents, so that specific therapy and victim management can be initiated in a timely manner. As first-line re- sponders, clinical laboratory personnel should become familiar with the various chemical or biological agents and be active participants in their local defense pro- grams. Approach: We review the selected agents previously considered or used in chemical and biological warfare, outline their poisonous and pathogenic effects, describe techniques used in their identification, address some of the logistical and technical difficulties in maintaining such tests in clinical laboratories, and comment on some of the analytical issues, such as specimen handling and personal protective equipment. Content: The chemical agents discussed include nerve, blistering, and pulmonary agents and cyanides. Biolog- ical agents, including anthrax and smallpox, are also discussed as examples for organisms with potential use in bioterrorism. Available therapies for each agent are outlined to assist clinical laboratory personnel in mak- ing intelligent decisions regarding implementation of diagnostic tests as a part of a comprehensive defense program. Summary: As the civilian medical community prepares for biological and chemical terrorist attacks, improve- ment in the capabilities of clinical laboratories is essen- tial in supporting counterterrorism programs designed to respond to such attacks. Accurate assessment of resources in clinical laboratories is important because it will provide local authorities with an alternative re- source for immediate diagnostic analysis. It is, therefore, recommended that clinical laboratories identify their current resources and the extent of support they can provide, and inform the authorities of their state of readiness.
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