Microbial risks and the spread of infectious diseases have re-emerged as some of the greatest concerns for our country’s safety and security. Pathogenic viruses, parasites and bacteria continue to threaten our air, water, soil, food and indoor environments. The ability to measure and identify these microbial hazards as well as understand their ability to survive and spread in the environment are the scientific goals for CAMRA.
CAMRA (the Center for Advancing Microbial Risk Assessment) is an independent research center originally established by the United States Department of Homeland Security and the Environmental Protection Agency, dedicated to advancing laboratory techniques, creating mathematical tools, and developing datasets needed to improve Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment (QMRA), a science-based framework for addressing disease in our communities from intentional or accidental releases of hazardous biological agents into our indoor and outdoor environments. Summarizing the threats from multiple microorganisms with diverse biologies in varied scenarios into a comparable estimate – risk – is a valuable product of a QMRA that can help identify the greatest microbial dangers and set priorities for dealing with biological agents of concern (BAC). QMRA risk estimates are beneficial across many disciplines and used by groups such as public health specialists, emergency managers, first responders, regulators, legislators, and engineers employed to assess and control risk.
QMRA required us to look quantitatively at every step of a microbial exposure pathway, from the first release of a pathogen to the actual human infection. Additionally, information had to be gathered on how each microorganism moved through the environment, their survival rates on various media, and how people could have been exposed to the microorganism (i.e. skin contact, inhalation, or ingestion). These measurements gave us a comprehensive view of how environmental contamination (deliberate or accidental) can lead to human infection and reveals key points where interventions can be employed to save lives. Since QMRA allowed us to incorporate interventions into risk estimates, we can use QMRA as a tool to measure the impact of interventions and identify the best policies and practices to protect public health and safety.
CAMRA’s research was divided into five projects, each specializing in different stages of the QMRA process.
Project I. Exposure: Detection, Fate and Transport of Biological Agents of Concern (BAC)
Project II. Infectious Disease Models for Assessing Microbial Risks for Developing Control Strategies
Project III. Dose-response Modeling and Applications
Project IV. Assessment-Analysis Interface for QMRA
Project V. Knowledge Management, Learning and Discovery for the QMRA Community
Gerba Lab, University of Arizona
The Gerba Lab coordinated Project I, and measured the survival of microbes on skin, and the transfer of microbes between skin and surfaces. Both these quantities are vital to modeling disease transmission in the indoor environment.
Choi Lab, University of Arizona
The Choi Lab, located at U of AZ’s Water Village, released microbes into a model water distribution system to study microbial transport. They compared microbial transport predictions from the innovative computer models they created in Years 1-3 with the results of these release experiments.
Wagner Lab, Northern Arizona University
The Wagner Lab is one of CAMRA’s two BSL3 (Biosafety level 3) laboratories, where BAC can be studied directly. Here, surrogates (harmless microbes that resemble BAC) are evaluated and their survival rates on surfaces, in soil, and in water are compared to those of the pathogenic microorganism they resemble. Surrogates that pass these tests can be used to study BAC scenarios without creating a risk to human health.
Hashsham Lab, Michigan State University
The Hashsham Lab specializes in studying the recovery and detection of BAC. They sequenced DNA taken from frequently and infrequently touched surfaces in a University dormitory to test Project II’s model of influenza transmission via surfaces and air. They also be tested methods to measure anthrax on surfaces using the surrogate Bacillus thuringiensis.
Nicas Lab, University of California, Berkeley
The Nicas Lab specializes in aerosol studies. They tested mathematical models of particle movement within a room, using data from an experiment conducted in Year 3. They also measured the amount of particles from a cough that can reach vulnerable areas of the face (membranes such as the eyes, nasal passages, and mouth).
Eisenberg and Koopman Labs, University of Michigan
The Eisenberg and Koopman Labs incorporated new data from Project I and Project III into their computer models of infectious disease transmission in the indoor environment. These models combined human movement patterns and environmental contamination levels to see how infections travel in a single venue, multiple venues, and in regional models. They also collected data on influenza and norovirus outbreaks to test the predictions of their models.
Haas Lab, Drexel University
The Haas Lab is in charge of creating mathematical dose-response relationships for BAC using existing data and data from CAMRA experiments. They have completed dose-response models for the Category A Biothreat Agents, and they worked on Category B and C Agents, and USDA Select Agents. They also explored the effect of multiple doses and timing of doses on microbial risks.
Bolin Lab, Michigan State University
CAMRA’s second BSL3 lab, the Bolin Lab performs animal studies to obtain dose-response data for BAC when datasets are not available from the scientific literature. They conducted experiments to provide multiple dose and time-to-dose response data.
Gurian Lab, Drexel University
The Gurian lab explores innovative ways to apply QMRA concepts to risk management and decision-making. They used Bayesian Hierarchical Analysis to identify general trends in interspecies survival and dose-response data, developing risk analysis scenarios for Tularemia and pandemic influenza, and factoring risk into cost-benefit analysis for decision models.
Casman Lab, Carnegie Mellon University
The Casman Lab is created a methodology for evaluating the public’s beliefs about microbial threats and identifying potentially dangerous misconceptions. This methodology was tested with regards to beliefs about influenza by taking concepts from semi-structured interviews and developing a national survey to identify the frequency of these beliefs in the general population.
Weber Lab, Drexel University
The Weber Lab finalized the second version of CAMRA’s knowledge repository, an online data storage and knowledge sharing system that facilitates collaboration between CAMRA researchers and highlights connections between projects. They also built the core software for the CAMRA Data Warehouse, which contains the assembled QMRA data from five years of CAMRA research and allow future users to add to it, forming a persistent and growing QMRA resource.
Rose Lab, Michigan State University
The Rose lab is in charge of QMRA Education, prepares QMRA workshops for conferences, and hosts the 1-Week QMRA Summer Institute at Michigan State University. They also use data and tools developed by all CAMRA projects. They completed risk assessments for fomites and key pathogens including the norovirus and Salmonella. They focused on beach safety after a sewage spill and waterborne disease after a flood, as well as compiling key QMRA data sets for the CAMRA Data Warehouse.
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Project I -- Exposure: Detection, Fate and Transport of Agents
Charles P. Gerba, University of Arizona
Project II -- Infectious Disease Models for Assessing Microbial
Risks and Developing Control Strategies
Joseph N.S. Eisenberg, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Project III -- Dose Response Assessment
Charles N. Haas, Drexel
Project IV -- The Assessment-analysis Interface
Patrick Gurian, Drexel
Project V -- Knowledge Management, Transfer, and Learning
Rosina Weber, Drexel
Theses / Dissertations