Laboratory of Virology and Rickettsiology

The Laboratory of Virology and Rickettsiology was created in 1960 as one of three new laboratories in the Division of Biologics Standards (DBS). 

Virology studies the virus itself. Rickettsiology is the study of Rickettsial diseases, which include typhus, spotted fever, trench fever, and Q fever, and are all very serious infectious diseases. Rickettsial organisms are also of interest to researchers because they have been used as bioweapons and can serve as agents for bioterrorism.

The Laboratory of Virology and Rickettsiology in the Division of Biologics Standards (DBS) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was located in Building 29, second and third floors. After Building 29A opened in 1967, the Laboratory of Virology and Rickettsiology and its staff moved to Rooms 2D24 and 3D22.

After the administrative transfer of the DBS from the NIH to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1972, the Laboratory became a Division and maintained that name until 1986. They also remained in Building 29A, on the second and third floors.

FDA Bureau of Biologics scientists investigated the presence of bacteriophages in polio, measles, and other vaccines, any possible safety concerns, and the possibility of eliminating these while preserving the integrity of the vaccines. Studies by Bureau as well as industry scientists indicated that the problem in trying to inactivate a bacteriophage with heat was that it required a temperature and duration so long as to destroy the growth-promoting factors of the biological. Chemical treatment proved problematical as well. Studies continued, and by 1975, FDA assayed all live virus vaccines submitted by manufacturers for bacteriophages prior to release. However, in Bureau studies of bacteriophages in a variety of animal models in late 1978, subjecting these models to phage doses of more than a billion times those found in contaminated vaccines, no adverse effects were found; histological examinations and inspections for chromosomal damage were included in the evaluation. This suggested that bacteriophages were not dangerous, even in contaminated vaccines.

In 1986, the Division of Virology and Rickettsiology was no longer listed separately in telephone directories, but the Division of Virology still existed. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, there were more organizational shifts: Molecular Virology was listed under the Division of Transfusion Transmitted Diseases and Viral Products was its own division.

By 2010, there was a Laboratory of Immunology and Virology under the Division of Cellular and Gene Therapies. The Division of Viral Products was still its own division.