State lab eventually will be able to identify biological terror agents

If a suspected bioterror agent was discovered on Kaua’i, no laboratory on the island is really equipped to identify it.

The Wilcox Memorial Hospital and Kauai Medical Clinic labs are only be able to rule out certain agents, and would forward the suspect substance up through a chain of laboratories assigned letters from “A” to “D” depending on levels of expertise and equipment available to identify such agents.

The Wilcox Health System labs are “As,” which are how most laboratories in the state are classified, explained Cmdr. Dr. Randall Culpepper, a biological warfare and terrorism expert from Washington, D.C.

But with the war on terror escalating, there will come a day in the near future when a state Department of Health laboratory, likely on O’ahu, will be equipped with capabilities to identify suspected bioterror agents, he said.

Now, suspected substances would have to be sent to the Mainland for analysis, Culpepper explained.

Bioterrorism is defined as the premeditated, unlawful use or threat of use of microorganisms or toxins derived from living organisms, to produce death or disease in humans, animals or plants, to create fear in and intimidate governments and societies in the pursuit of political, religious or ideological goals.

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