This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses.

Units from an Army command based at Fort Detrick are working to better understand and prepare to respond to the new coronavirus.

Several units that fall under the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command, including the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, are working on understanding or preventing COVID-19, which has infected nearly 90,000 people globally, said Col. Wendy Sammons-Jackson, director of the Military Infectious Diseases Research Program under USAMRDC.

USAMRIID and the Walter Reed institute have or will receive samples of the coronavirus, officially called SARS-CoV-2, Sammons-Jackson said in an email.

USAMRIID received a sample of the coronavirus so that researchers can build up a stock of the virus that can be used to test treatment and vaccine candidates, Sammons-Jackson said in an email.

Researchers at USAMRIID will use the sample to study how the coronavirus is different from other viruses, she said. They will have to test their batch to ensure the stock is reproducible and looks like the initial sample of the virus, which is used for future countermeasures.

The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research should receive different blood parts from infected individuals from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services once the samples are available, Sammons-Jackson said.

The Walter Reed institute scientists have already identified specific areas of interest on the coronavirus and reproduced those, she said. The reproduced products will be used as an ingredient for some of the tests for the coronavirus.

USAMRDC laboratories are working on a COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine is already in pre-clinical development in animal models, Sammons-Jackson said. USAMRDC is also lending subject matter expertise to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that can help assess the current tests.

USAMRDC joins six pharmaceutical companies, including Johnson & Johnson and Sanofi, working to develop vaccines, according to a STAT News article. Other pharmaceutical companies, including Gilead Sciences and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, are working on treatments.

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Sammons-Jackson said USAMRDC and its government partners are moving at “revolutionary rates” in order to find effective treatment options and prevention measures. USAMRDC laboratories overseas are ready to conduct surveillance activities to help support regional and Department of Defense response efforts, she said.

USAMRDC units also studied the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak, caused by a coronavirus similar to that causing COVID-19, as well as the 2009 swine flu outbreak, she said.

The SARS outbreak that started in 2002 was a complete surprise, Sammons-Jackson said, especially because at that time coronaviruses were not known to cause severe respiratory disease. COVID-19 is different enough to surprise epidemiologists and other disease scientists when it comes to the spread, but now they know coronavirus can cause severe illness and how the viruses spread through the respiratory system.

As of Monday, there were more than 90 confirmed cases of the disease in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of the more than 90 cases, at least 40 cases come from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

The source of the new virus is likely human interaction with animals, Sammons-Jackson said.

“With the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, we are putting the lessons we learned from both SARS and swine flu to the test,” she said.

Follow Heather Mongilio on Twitter: @HMongilio.

Heather Mongilio is the health and Fort Detrick reporter for the Frederick News-Post. She can be reached at

(14) comments


We need to study the lunatic idea that borders should be forced open by unelected federal courts. This is spreading because of Open Borders.


Um no. That's not it. It's not coming in on illegal immigrants. It's coming in from people who had visited the area in China or been in contact with someone who has. You can't completely shut the borders to anyone from anywhere ever coming in. You couldn't sustain trade or the economy that way. Any other bright ideas you'd like to share?


[thumbup] dab


Remember that if, God forbid, this gets worse. For it will be those who tied the hands of our sovereign nation and let Unelected judges force open our doors. For you may not be able to keep them all out, but a large amount you will.


Open borders to the state of Washington?


It is either Canadians or Corona Beer.




Getting about past time to move away from Frederick and Ft Detrick!




Frederick should be a much much cheaper city and area to live in considering it houses a biological research center which constantly studies Ebola, Anthrax, Coronavirus, and other deadly diseases. Living here is a risk, perhaps a small one, but still a risk considering these labs.


Isn't that up to our market economy to decide?


It's safer to live next to Fort Detrick than, say, a farm that's allowing pesticides to run off in to your ground water.


One way you die slowly, other way you die quickly. Either way it's bad.


You are dying slowly anyway. As the song goes, “Life is just another terminal disease.”

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