Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services



The Molecular Detection and Characterization (MDC) Group uses cutting-edge technologies and equipment to target the detection of the genetic material that is present in all biological organisms (i.e. DNA or RNA). This targeted detection allows the scientists in this lab to quickly identify the presence of diseases that could impact public health and spread throughout our community or that could be associated with possible acts of terrorism.

Each year, nearly 125,000 molecular tests are performed on human, animal and environmental samples collected from across the Commonwealth. The identification and characterization of biological organisms such as bacteria and viruses at the genetic level is critical to Virginia's public health emergency and outbreak response efforts.

DCLS is the only advance-level laboratory in the Commonwealth as designated by the CDC's Laboratory Response Network (LRN), and as such provides rapid and highly advanced testing to identify biological agents in clinical and environmental specimens that are suspected to be the result of acts of terrorism. Just a few of the threat agents that our laboratory can detect include Bacillus anthracis, Yersinia pestis, ricin toxin, and Francisella tularensis. DCLS has assisted the national LRN program in multi-lab validations of new test methods, proficiency testing evaluations and assessments of new technologies aimed at improving laboratory testing.

More recently, this group has been tasked with the identification of many novel "high consequence pathogens" such as Ebola virus, Zika virus, and Measles virus, which pose particular challenges to public health. The scientists in this group are routinely evaluating and implementing new technologies, instrumentation and tests to ensure Virginia's prompt and effective response for its citizens.


Recent testing activities:

  • July 2016: Implementation of Zika virus testing in mosquito populations using real-time RT-PCR.
  • April 2016: Qualified and approved by CDC to run the CDC Trioplex Real-time RT-PCR Assay for the in vitro qualitative detection of Zika, Chikungunya, and Dengue viruses in human clinical specimens.
  • August 2014: Qualified and approved by the CDC to perform the DOD Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) Ebola Zaire (EZ1) rRT-PCR TaqMan® assay. DCLS is the only laboratory in Virginia that has this testing capability.
  • Other important routine testing includes, but is not limited to:
    • E. coli O157 and non-O157 STEC
    • Bordetella pertussis (causative agent of Whooping cough)
    • Norovirus
    • Measles and Mumps viruses
    • H7N9 influenza circulating in China
    • Novel 2012 Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome - Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) circulating in parts of Europe and the Middle EastRespiratory virus panel (RVP) that can simultaneously identify seven different viruses from a single specimen
    • Salmonella "serotyping" by molecular methods
    • Whole genome sequencing of select foodborne-related pathogens through collaborations with the FDA and CDC