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ACP Expert Discusses Risks of Biocontainment Laboratories

Safely conducting research requires continuously updated safety training, policy, and procedures

TUESDAY, July 29, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- The risks emanating from biocontainment laboratories should be prevented by implementation of appropriate safety policies and procedures, according to an editorial published online July 29 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Deborah Cotton, M.D., M.P.H., from the American College of Physicians in Philadelphia, discusses the risk of bioterror from biocontainment laboratories, noting factors that contribute to safety lapses and strategies to prevent future incidents.

Cotton notes that in 2008 there were investigations into allegations of security and safety flaws in a laboratory that contained anthrax. In June 2014, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported cases of improper handling and storage of live anthrax, deadly H5N1 influenza virus, and smallpox virus. These accidents revealed unacceptable behaviors, including numerous and serious safety lapses. Safely conducting research with deadly pathogens requires continuously updated safety training, policy, and procedures. The necessary all-encompassing culture of safety essential for work in biosafety level (BSL)-3 and BSL-4 laboratories is missing from many.

"We should suspend all research at BSL-4 laboratories until a thorough review of the CDC accidents can be completed," Cotton writes. "For the future, greatly limiting the number of BSL-3 and BSL-4 laboratories would probably better enable us to ensure their safety."

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Physician's Briefing