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Fort Worth Lab At The Center Of West Nile Fight

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - While the public campaign to eradicate West Nile Virus has been fought on the ground and in the air, a Fort Worth laboratory is at the center of helping local health authorities identify where infected mosquitoes are found.

Today CBS 11 News was granted access to the lab that is on the front lines of the West Nile fight.

At the facility, mosquitoes are brought in from traps placed all across North Texas.   First they're separated by species and then by gender.

"There are some species most commonly associated with spreading the virus and even among them only the females take a blood-meal," said Tarrant County Environmental Health Manager David Jefferson.   "So there's no point in us testing the male mosquito because there's no way they can carry the virus."

Just two lab technicians do the tests, and their workload has increased six-fold in the past few weeks.

"We are out of the public's eye most of the time, but what we do is very important because we help in surveillance and diagnosing diseases," said laboratory manager Dr. Guy Dixon.

First the technicians grind the mosquitos.  They then extract acids that contain the chemical signature of West Nile, its RNA.  That is mixed with other chemicals to aid in the test.  And then it goes into the testing device.

From trap to end of test takes about 24 hours. And for cities all over North Texas, this lab is one of the most important tools in the West Nile fight.

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