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Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
May 11, 2005

Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., J.D.

For Further Information Contact:
Donna Leusner
(609) 984-7160

NJDHSS and UMDNJ Provide New Jersey Laboratorians with Critical Training for Recognition of Disease-Causing Agents


New Jersey clinical laboratory professionals charged with identifying disease-causing organisms will be trained to detect highly dangerous biological agents, including anthrax, plague and tularemia, in a series of workshops this month.

Three one-day, hands on workshops are scheduled in May at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), Scotch Plains and Stratford campuses. Seventy-five specialists in clinical microbiology from hospital and commercial laboratories across the state will participate. The workshop is co-sponsored by UMDNJ and the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS).

DHSS Commissioner Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., J.D., said the training is essential, as these specialists constitute the front line of the public health response to bioterrorism.

“Clinical microbiologists are charged with identifying organisms that make hundreds of people ill,” Dr. Jacobs said. “Treating sick people, and protecting healthy individuals from the spread of disease, starts with laboratorians.”

The workshops will provide participants with an overview of their role within the Laboratory Response Network (LRN). The LRN, a concept developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), allows states to coordinate a rapid laboratory response to bioterrorism and chemical terrorism. This involves the identification of laboratory services available statewide and the development of a plan to rapidly deploy those services.

The LRN includes sentinel, reference and national laboratories. In New Jersey, 64 of 90 accredited clinical laboratories in hospitals and commercial sites are designated as sentinel laboratories because of their capacity to detect most agents of bioterrorism.

The specimens analyzed by sentinel laboratories include human blood and sputum. When clinical microbiologists in sentinel laboratories detect disease-causing agents in human samples, they notify the DHSS Communicable Disease Service and refer the samples to the state public health laboratory for confirmatory analysis. Samples believed to contain certain extremely contagious agents, such as smallpox, will be sent from the sentinel laboratories directly to the CDC, the national reference laboratory.

In addition to the detection of agents, trainers will emphasize biosafety containment practices for handling specimens. Non-contagious strains will be used to illustrate features of disease-causing organisms to aid in accurate identification.

The workshops are a follow up to a series held last year outlining procedures for safe packaging and shipping of diagnostic specimens and infectious substances. 

The curriculum was developed in conjunction with the National Laboratory Training Network, which is jointly administered by the CDC and the Association of Public Health Laboratories.

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