The EPA announced plans Tuesday to set up a laboratory at the agency’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) to develop new methods to track and monitor the growth of a strain of bacteria called “the gaslight,” known for its penchant for contaminating gasoline.
The NCEI is responsible for ensuring that federal environmental regulations are followed and that public health and safety protections are being met.
The goal is to help inform and develop strategies to prevent the spread of the strain.
The new lab will be called the “Gasoline Nightcore” and will be based at the NCEIC headquarters in Washington, D.C. It will also have a research and development office at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the agency said in a statement.
It will take about four months to complete the work, and the lab will operate under the authority of a separate federal agency, the Centers of Disease Control.
The gaslight is not considered a pathogen, but its growth can be detected in a number of ways, including by testing gasoline or other materials for its presence.
It’s estimated that there are as many as 40 different strains of the gaslight.
The new lab could potentially help identify which ones are the most harmful and also help scientists better identify the strain that causes them.
The lab would test samples for specific bacteria strains in a vacuum tube, or in a dish with a tiny amount of water and a microscope, said Mary Lou Fishel, an environmental scientist at NCEII and the lead scientist for the lab.
“The purpose of this is to detect the strains that are causing problems and then identify the agents that are actually causing them,” Fishell told the Associated Press in an interview.
Scientists have been trying to identify the exact strains of gaslight bacteria that cause the gaslighting disease for years, but the lab could help scientists identify more specific strains and potentially better understand the mechanisms behind the disease.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), which oversees NCEID, said it expects the lab to cost between $1 million and $2 million.
Fishell declined to disclose the costs or funding sources for the project.
The research and laboratory will be the first of its kind at NIEHS, which oversees the agency.
It has previously set up labs at NSC and elsewhere to track outbreaks of various diseases.
Scientists at the EPA, which has been working on a similar lab project in Kansas, have not yet made a decision about the lab’s location.
But Fishey said the lab would be in the same building as NSC, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the Department of Energy.
The CDC, which runs NCEIM, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the new lab.