Fort Detrick Environmental Health Lab welcomes back frogs for research initiative

- FREDERICK, Md. -- It's been a few years since the U.S. Army Center for Environmental Health Research (USACEHR) at Fort Detrick has used frogs in their research, but scientists are excited to welcome them back in a new study aimed at finding an alternative to a potentially harmful chemical found in some water sources.

"We're trying to answer a question from the U.S. Army Public Health Command. They want to know the difference between perchlorate and periodate and its effects on the thyroid," said David Trader, a research biologist at the U.S. Army Center for Environmental Health Research.

Perchlorate is a chemical commonly used in fireworks, rocket fuel, propellants and ammunition. It's what enables things to explode, and according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it's been detected in water systems from 26 states.

"The perchlorates are really persistent in the environment and they cause health effects in the thyroid and other parts of the endocrine system," said Maj. Jonathan Stallings, deputy commander and Ph.D. Scientist at USACEHR.

The EPA monitors drinking water for any unsafe amounts, but due to its widespread application and tendency to stay in the water, the U.S. Army Center for Environmental Health Research is looking at periodate, an alternative oxidizer, and they're testing it on African clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis).

"We collect information about their staging, their size, mortality and morphology, and that allows us to assess the toxicity between the two toxins," Stallings said.

Right now, scientists are working on breeding the frogs in order to begin testing in a few months.

"There are certain parameters we have to meet within our system first, before we can test the toxicant and we're achieving that right now,” Stallings said.

Once the tadpoles are 15 days old, they will be dosed with perchlorate, periodate, or nothing. There will then be a 21-day testing period where their physical development is measured.

"You would see some delayed growth. The frogs at a certain day should have this hind limb, or at this day [something else] should appear, and so you should expect to see some delayed effects that perchlorate has. Histopathology is really the end game, what’s happening in the thyroid of the frog," Trader said.

And being the only lab in the Army with the facilities to conduct frog research, the scientists are particularly excited about the experiment and the future of aquaculture studies.

"We’ve got one of the best aquaculture facilities in the Army to run this kind of test," Trader said.

Scientists at the lab expect the study to last around six months. They'll then present their findings to the U.S. Army Institute of Public Health that can call for more testing or consider issuing new regulations.


Don't Miss

  • What's The Buzz This Week?
    Copyright 2017 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
  • Mother-Daughter look-a-like
    Copyright 2017 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Video Center