Bioterrorism program offers more than security

Dr. Larry Glickman, professor of epidemiology and environmental medicine at Purdue University, with his “office mate,” Indy. Photo courtesy of Nita Glickman, PhD, Purdue University.

A medical-record surveillance program developed by the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine for use in the fight against bioterrorism may also become a model for a national veterinary records system.

The Purdue system—called Veterinary Medical Data-Surveillance of Syndromes (VMD-SOS)— scans veterinary records to find patterns in illnesses and symptoms, some of which could be linked to bioterrorism and act as an early warning sign.

The system will be of value to the veterinary profession as a whole, said Larry Glickman, VMD, DrPH, professor of epidemiology and environmental medicine at Purdue. It could recognize patterns in adverse vaccine reactions, plot infectious disease patterns and address other medical issues. “Then we’d be able to send out alerts (to veterinary practices) around the country,” he said.

Purdue is using data collected by Banfield Pet Hospitals, from facilities in 43 states. “It is very rare to have such a rich database,” Glickman said, noting that individual private practices don’t use a standardized system. Such a system in the private sector has been cost prohibitive, Glickman said.

However, a recent announcement from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) could lead to a uniform system for medical records. HHS has signed a five-year, $32.4 million deal with the College of American Pathologists to make the Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine (SNOMED) available nationally at no cost. The National Library of Medicine will oversee the program.

SNOMED was originally envisioned as a way to standardized records for human medicine. But a collaborated effort between the college and the AVMA expanded it to include veterinary terms. A uniform system could enable surveillance programs, such as VMS-SOS, to use data from any medical or veterinary practice.

The full launch of the Purdue program is awaiting funding, Glickman said, with grant requests being reviewed by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Institute of Health. For now they are using data from Banfield’s Florida practices as a subset to refine the system, he said. “Sort of a prototype, so we’re making significant progress.”

For more information about the Purdue program, contact Glickman at [email protected].

NEWStat Advancements & research News