A new center at Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine in Ames should boost the nation's ability to combat agroterrorism and bioterrorism.

ISU's Center for Food Security and Public Health will team with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and will focus its efforts on threats to the nation's livestock herds and food supply. The CDC provided $1 million in federal funds to establish the ISU project.

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the East Coast and subsequent anthrax scares prompted the college to create the center, says Jim Roth, an ISU professor of veterinary microbiology and preventive medicine. He will direct the center. The step is part of a national effort to fortify U.S. food security. Since Sept. 11, Congress has appropriated $64 million for sensitive diagnostic equipment at the USDA’s animal-disease center in Ames, which has a key role in the nation's disease-prevention system.

In addition, more than $43 million was allocated to states and land-grant universities, including $21 million for a national diagnostic laboratory network to aid in rapid response to an outbreak of high-risk agricultural pests or pathogens. Iowa is to receive $1.5 million of that to improve its animal- and plant-disease detection and response systems; half of the money will go to the state diagnostics laboratory at ISU's College of Veterinary Medicine.

The ISU center's top priority will be to organize a national network of public health specialists that could be tapped by the CDC if such a public health emergency were to occur.
In addition, the ISU center will:

  • Establish a program to train veterinarians and animal owners across the country to raise awareness of zoonotic diseases.
  • Convene two international scientific meetings to compare notes on research into vaccines needed to combat disease outbreaks, including a Sept. 16-18 meeting at Iowa State.
  • Take a comprehensive look at threats to U.S. crop-based agriculture.
  • Provide five graduate fellowships to veterinarians studying public health and infectious diseases at Iowa State.

Des Moines Register