USGS research includes developing more rapid and sensitive methods for the detection and identification of pathogens and diagnosis of disease, improving understanding of the factors controlling disease, and developing new methods to control losses from infectious diseases.
Methods like next generation sequencing help USGS scientists detect new diseases. NGS is a powerful tool for studying new and emerging diseases because it can provide information about viruses and other pathogens that have not previously been described. Recently, the Alaska Science Center used next generation sequencing to investigate the hypothesis that a virus might be responsible for avian keratin disease (AKD). In 2016, they detected a novel picornavirus (Poecivirus) in beak tissues of Black-capped Chickadees with AKD (Zylberberg et al. 2016).
The USGS Diagnostic Virology Laboratory (DVL) at the National Wildlife Health Center performs isolation and identification of common and novel viruses from diagnostic and research samples. The Diagnostic Microbiology Laboratory (DML) routinely performs a variety of procedures to isolate and identify important pathogenic bacteria and fungi from wildlife.