A new multi-million pound research center has opened, which brings together three government science units to tackle zoonoses.
The facility in Iowa, combines two units from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and one US Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) to form the largest federal animal disease center in the US.
USDA said research at the "world class" facility will focus on improving animal health, disease diagnosis and reducing food safety problems. By tackling zoonoses while livestock are being reared, reduces the likelihood of product contamination during slaughter and processing.
ARS' National Animal Disease Center is one of the units that now occupy the building. Part of its work is to research zoonoses, which are animal diseases capable of transmission into humans, such as salmonella, campylobactor and avian influenza to develop ways to imrove food safety.
Mike Johanns, Secretary of Agriculture said that the investment benefits the animals, industry and consumers.
"Construction of this state-of-the-art animal health center is an important milestone in USDA's efforts to provide first-class animal health services," he said.
The facility, which was dedicated by Johanns on July 3, is the second component of a multi-phase, $460m project to modernize government research.
The building, which cost $85m and three and a half years to build, contains about 155,000 square feet and will house cattle, sheep, and hogs as well as bison, elk, deer, and reindeer.
Animals with "high-containment" designations will be tested at the facility, which has been designed for optimal safety and security. Scientists will work with a variety of endemic, zoonotic and foreign animal diseases in what is called Biological Safety Level 3 (BSL3) space. This includes features such as airtight walls, filtered air and liquid waste treatment technology.
A consolidated lab and a low-containment animal facility are still under construction, and by the project's completion 2009, the complex will be one of the largest animal health centers in the world, according to the USDA. In total, the researchers will have about one million square feet of laboratory space.
According to USDA statistics, the national livestock industry is worth $100 billion.
ARS is USDA's chief scientific research agency, while APHIS is the department's primary agency for responding to animal and plant diseases, as well as pest threats.