The Laboratory Response Network (LRN) and its partners maintain an integrated network of laboratories that are fully equipped to respond quickly to acts of chemical or biological terrorism, emerging infectious diseases, natural disasters and other public health threats and emergencies. The LRN became operational in 1999 and has since performed essential public health services, notably including responding to the Anthrax attacks of 2001.
Most recently in Phoenix on Tuesday, the State Department of Health (Arizona Bureau of State Laboratory Services, an LRN member laboratory) similarly acted to test a white powder letter addressed to Governor Jan Brewer. The letter was opened by a staff person in the State Capitol sending the hazmat team scrambling to lockdown the building.
In situations such as this, the FBI will deliver the suspicious sample to the LRN laboratory. The LRN lab’s highly trained staff will then run a panel of tests (standardized across the LRN, specific to BioTerrorism and Public Health threats) in a very secure and safe environment to determine if there exists an agent of interest within the suspicious sample. The testing methodology is robust and redundant, with verification and confirmation tests run for any positive samples. All data specific to threat samples received and tested by the LRN labs are then reported to CDC as well as to the FBI.
Currently the FBI is awaiting results on the samples in Arizona.