The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is conducting ongoing research that will help scientists better understand the coronavirus that causes the disease known as COVID-19, and methods to prevent its spread.

In the Trump Administration’s whole of government effort, this work is being done at the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC) laboratory in cooperation with the DHS Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office. As results become available, NBACC will provide updates on their findings to DHS and response agencies, especially those that may immediately impact efforts to mitigate transmission.

“With this critical research, we are advancing the country’s top priority in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19,” said William N. Bryan, DHS Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology. “This will help us understand many of the factors that influence the persistence of the virus on surfaces or in the air, and what methods are most effective for disinfecting potentially contaminated surfaces.” 

There is currently only limited information available about the virus, so researchers at the NBACC are working very aggressively to answer the many questions experts have about its survivability and transmission, says DHS. Using the lab’s unique capabilities, the researchers are evaluating the impact of a range of conditions, like temperature and humidity, to determine the virus’s survivability in the air, in respiratory fluids and on various types of surfaces.

The results of this work will provide essential information to protect those responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, including first responders and health care providers, as well as provide best practices for individuals to reduce potential for contamination, notes DHS. A disinfectant study will also provide information on the most effective materials to clean surfaces to rid them of the virus.

NBACC has a unique combination of capabilities in Virology and Aerobiology that operate together at high biocontainment levels, and its aerosol scientists can develop unique solutions to address complex questions, such as those posed during the COVID-19 situation. NBACC’s established ability to evaluate the stability of viruses and the effectiveness of decontamination methods previously enabled it to provide actionable information in mitigating spread of the Ebola virus.

NBACC was established specifically to conduct research for responses to biological events, to characterize emerging or novel biothreats, and develop response tools and information that enables effective responses and mitigation techniques to stem the impact of such events.