Microbiology Research and Services
Our microbiologists design and conduct basic and applied research in microbiology, molecular biology, and aerobiology. Specializing in biological aerosols, our research interests focus on bioterrorism-associated biological aerosols and the environmental causes of allergy and asthma.
Our bioterrorism research experience includes detection of, decontamination of, and protection from biowarfare agents. Our allergy and asthma work focuses on researching biological contaminants isolated from the environment to identify environmental causes of illness and to recommend methods for preventing such biological contamination and its associated adverse health effects. These organisms include airborne allergens as well as pathogens.
Other microbiology program activities include laboratory and field research in protection from and removal of microorganisms, environmental biocontamination, and antimicrobial and biocide efficacy. For example, we developed a method for measuring biological particulate material that we use to study bioaerosol penetration and containment and to evaluate aerosol samplers. In addition, our research has expanded into homeland security and defense projects including both the evaluation of equipment for the rapid detection and the decontamination of bioterrorism agents.
RTI microbiology facilities are fully equipped to collect, characterize, study, inactivate, and control microbial populations. Particular emphasis is placed on cooperative research among our microbiologists, molecular biologists, aerosol scientists, engineers, and chemists. Our scientists apply their laboratory expertise to
- Challenge and test bioaerosol collectors and biological warfare agent detectors
- Monitor environmental vectors and conditions and assess exposure
- Develop research methods
- Evaluate microbiological collection and measurement systems and processes
We have four microbiology laboratories functioning as an ISO 6 Class 1,000 or better clean space. We boast a state-of-the-art microbiology research laboratory (ML), a self-contained temperature- and humidity-controlled biosafety level 2 (BSL2) laboratory, a molecular biology laboratory, and a microbiological aerosol test facility (MATF).
- The ML contains standard microbiological equipment. A low-temperature freezer houses an extensive collection of fungi and bacteria. The laboratory also houses 28 static chambers used for material susceptibility testing (primarily ASTM 6329 assessments). The BSL2 laboratory is contained within the ML.
- The molecular biology laboratory houses equipment dedicated for biological analysis at the molecular level. It boasts an iCycler thermocycler equipped with an iCycler optical module for fluorescent real-time and quantitative polymerase chain reaction detection of nucleic acids. In addition, the laboratory is fully capable of protein isolations and analyses.
- The MATF houses a test apparatus and an 8 x 8 x 10 ft dynamic microbial test chamber capable of exact control conditions of air flow, temperature, and relative humidity. The dynamic chamber is capable of BSL2/3 containment for bioaerosols. The MATF also houses a smaller, bioaerosol test chamber that has been used for HEPA respirator bioaerosol removal efficiency tests and to evaluate bioaerosol sampler collection efficiencies for recovery of airborne viruses and studies on the microbial ecology of cooling coils.
In addition, we have a full range of bioaerosol samplers including 1-, 2-, 6-, and 8-stage Andersen impactors, Mattson-Garvin samplers, and glass impingers, and the HVS3 high-volume surface sampler. We also have the requisite facilities and expertise for the collection of membrane filter samples.
We offer the following research services to government and industry:
- Bioaerosol sensor and sampler evaluations
- Antimicrobials/biocides assessments (gas-phase, aqueous, bound, and ultraviolet C)
- Bioaerosol penetration and containment
- Fabric microbial penetration tests
- Materials biodeterioration
- Product evaluations and assessments
- Real time and quantitative detection
- Static and dynamic chamber studies
We also offer the following laboratory tests and expertise:
- Antigen assays (e.g., dust mite, cat, dog, ragweed)
- Bacteria, fungi, and virus inactivation
- Bacterial, fungal, and viral load
- Characterization of microbial populations from soils, waters, air, dusts, and materials
- Endotoxin, β-(1,3) glucan assay
- Fluorescence microscopy
- Fluorescent-dye gene fusion expression system design
- In vitro toxicity assay
- Isolation, quantitation, identification of bacteria, fungi, and bacterial viruses (bacteriophage)
- Microscopy and photomicrography
- Molecular cloning
- Northern blot
- Nucleic acid isolation and purification
- Polymerase chain reaction (PCR, real-time, RAPD, RT-PCR, and QPCR)
- Protein isolation, purification, and analysis
- Recombinant DNA technology
- Southern blot
- Real-time detection and quantitation by polymerase chain reaction (PCR)
- Western blot
We are privileged to collaborate with and provide microbiology support to multiple agencies within the Department of Defense, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, several offices of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency including the Office of Solid Waste and National Risk Management Research Laboratory, the National Exposure Research Laboratory, and a variety of commercial clients.