Viral Special Pathogens Branch

The Viral Special Pathogens Branch’s (VSPB) charter is the study of highly infectious viruses, many of which cause hemorrhagic manifestations in humans. Our daily work involves the investigation of viruses of Ebola virus, Marburg virus, Lassa fever virus, Rift Valley fever virus, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus, other Arenavirus and Hantavirus, and additional recently identified and emerging viral species.

Almost all of these viruses are classified as Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4) pathogens and as such must be handled in special facilities designed to contain them safely. VSPB operates one of the world’s few BSL-4 laboratories. In addition, VSPB provides technical and research/diagnostic materials to many international laboratories and collaborators. VSBP staff members are trained to respond to global disease outbreaks and provide assistance for disease detection and control measures.

VSPB uses the following disciplines and tools to understand and control these diseases: public health practices, molecular biology, molecular evolution of viruses, clinical diagnostics, clinical medicine, epidemiology, immunology, pathogenesis, comparative biology, ecology, and community education. The Infectious Disease Pathology Branch (IDPB) at CDC assists VSPB with diagnostic pathology and surveillance.

colony of fruit bats in a cave

Studying viruses in fruit bats (Rousettus aegyptiacus)

A colony of fruit bats in a Ugandan cave.

Transmission electron micrograph (TEM) image of an Ebola virus virion

Ebola virus

Transmission electron micrograph (TEM) image of an Ebola virus virion.

Poster detailing Ebola virus ecology and ransmission

Ebola life cycle poster

Diagram describing Ebola virus ecology and transmission.

Woman wearing protective clothing in a medical facility

Ebola outbreak support

CDC Scientists working in Democratic Republic of Congo during an Ebola outbreak.

Researcher weighing a deer mouse in a field

Host ecology

Weighing a deer mouse, host of the Sin Nombre hantavirus, to learn more about host ecology.

Man in a field with several live traps

Deer mice research

CDC scientist with live traps for capturing deer mice at Montana research station.

Two men hanging a poster on a wall

Filovirus outbreak preparations

CDC scientist working with Ugandan hospital staff to prepare for filovirus outbreaks.

Person wearing protective clothing holding a tick in a container

Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF) research

CDC Scientist collecting ticks for evidence of Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF).