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Pfiesteria Biohazard Culture Facility

Technician wearing a respirator mask inside the biohazard room, checking a bioassay for toxic Pfiesteria activity.


Sometimes, when conducting research, scientists discover solutions to problems other than the original focus. Just such an opportunity has presented itself while researching the acute environmental impacts from Pfiesteria. Pfiesteria toxin impairs both the nervous and immune systems of fish as well as humans. NC State University and National Ocean Service researchers have discovered that the Pfiesteria toxin affects a primary brain receptor that links the two systems and is common to diverse neuro-degenerative or autoimmune diseases. There is strong evidence that once the chemical structure of this toxin is analyzed, it will lead to medical breakthroughs for the treatment of memory diseases such as Alzheimers or other nervous system disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis. For this reason North Carolina State University and the NC State Legislature commissioned the establishment of a toxic Pfiesteria Biohazard Level III research Laboratory in January of 1998.

In addition, several state and federal environmental agencies take advantage of the Pfiesteria facility resources by having water samples evaluated for toxic Pfiesteria using standardized fish bioassays procedures developed at the biohazard lab. Laboratory researchers and technicians wear protective biohazard suits with forced air respirators while working in the fish bioassay culture room. Air within the biohazard facility is continuously replaced at a rate of about 14 times per hour to insure that aerosolized toxins do not accumulate in the building. The Pfiesteria biohazard facility also houses five specially engineered biohazard chambers. These specialized chambers are used to culture the mass quantities of Pfiesteria needed for toxin research.

More on Pfiesteria

Pfiesteria Research at the Center for Applied Aquatic Ecology

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