Biological Sciences Laboratories


To provide laboratory support to detect and monitor the spread of infectious diseases, monitor environmental quality and protect the consumer from food-borne disease.

What We Do

Bioterrorism Response and Special Pathogen Laboratory

  • Perform diagnostic and confirmatory testing for suspected bacterial agents of bioterrorism in both clinical and environmental samples.
  • Perform diagnostic, confirmatory, and drug susceptibility testing for Mycobacterium tuberculosis and other Mycobacteria species.
  • Serve as a reference laboratory for hospital-based and private microbiology laboratories to assist in identification of unusual bacterial isolates and blood parasites.
  • Perform microbiological testing on specimens from the State Medical Examiners to help determine cause of death.
  • Support department epidemiology programs through diagnostic testing and confirmation of bacteria associated with diseases of public health significance including meningitis and whooping cough.

Molecular Biology/Enteric Pathogen Laboratory

  • Perform Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction PCR analysis to detect pathogenic organisms of public health significance and potential agents of bioterrorism.
  • Perform Time-Resolved Fluorescence analysis for identification of toxins associated with acts of bioterrorism.
  • Conducts surveillance testing for Influenza using PCR methods.
  • Detect Norovirus during outbreaks of gastrointestinal disease, employing Reverse Transcriptase PCR methods.
  • Perform tests to detect pathogenic enteric bacteria in human specimens including Salmonella, Shigella, E. coli O157:H7.
  • Conduct Pulse Field Gel Electrophoretic analysis of pathogenic microorganisms to determine “fingerprint” patterns in support of national and local infectious disease surveillance programs.
  • Perform testing to detect Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the agent of the sexually transmitted disease Gonorrhea.
  • Identify pathogenic parasitic agents.
  • Provide molecular biological methods support for other Biological Sciences Section laboratory units.
  • Provide telediagnostic assistance to clinicians in conjunction with CDC to help diagnosis parasitic diseases.

Food/Water Microbiology Laboratory

  • Perform microbiological analysis on water samples from Narragansett Bay, river and other environmental samples to monitor pollution.
  • Perform microbiological analyses of drinking water.
  • Perform bioassays on shellfish to monitor marine waters for red tide toxin - the cause of paralytic shellfish poisoning.
  • Conduct tests to assure the quality of food and water and adherence to FDA standards regarding accurate product representation by manufacturers and retailers.
  • Analyze food products associated with foodborne disease outbreaks for pathogenic bacteria.
  • Maintain capacity to conduct microbiological tests for potential microbial agents of bioterrorism in the food supply.
  • Perform fluorescent antibody testing to detect rabies in wildlife and domestic mammals.

Serology Laboratory

  • Perform nucleic acid amplification tests to diagnose sexually transmitted diseases such as Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphilis and HIV.
  • Employ cell culture, fluorescent antibody and PCR methods to detect arboviruses such as West Nile and Eastern Equine Encephalitis in mosquitoes and host animals such as livestock and birds.
  • Perform serological tests to detect new and emergent bacterial and viral diseases.
  • Conduct surveillance testing for measles, mumps, and rubella.
  • Perform serological tests on cattle and poultry specimens to assist the Department of Environmental Management in controlling the spread of infectious diseases in livestock

Quality Assurance Office

  • Plan, direct, audit and perform consultative activities related to Quality Assurance (QA), Quality Control (QC) including internal and external proficiency testing programs.
  • Apply statistical methods to identify quality assurance issues and evaluate the effects of remedial actions.
  • Assess needs to maintain compliance with federal and state regulations.
  • Communicate with the community, professional organizations, and accrediting and certification agencies regarding issues of QA.
  • Monitor and improve QA through changes in workplace policies and procedures.
  • Solicit customer feedback to improve customer satisfaction.