In the wake of revelations regarding laboratory safety lapses both at the FDA and the CDC involving `select agents’ including anthrax, smallpox, and H5N1 avian influenza, and the ongoing Debate Over Gain Of Function research, we are seeing agencies, scientific journals, universities, politicians, consultants, newspaper editorial boards, scientific working groups, and individual scientists all publicly staking out their positions on these issues.
A little over two weeks ago, the Cambridge Working Group produced a consensus statement, which urges caution, and better regulation and oversight of laboratory research seeking to enhance the virulence, transmissibility, or host range of pathogens with pandemic potential (PPPs).
While just yesterday, the newly formed coalition Scientists for Science, posted a statement of their own, that called their work `essential’ and dismissed many of the concerns being raised over GOF research as being overstated.
Not everyone is convinced, however, as evidenced by last week’s ECDC Comment On Gain Of Function Research, which acknowledged the potential public health risks that these types of experiments can pose, and proposed that the overriding concern of researchers should be first, and foremost `to do no harm.’
Today the Journal Nature has two articles on Laboratory safety standards (or the lack thereof). First an article by Declan Butler, on the lack of universal, and consistent standards for laboratories conducting work on potentially dangerous pathogens.
Experts call for a stronger safety culture at secure sites after incidents involving anthrax and flu in a US laboratory.
29 July 2014
Recent accidents involving deadly pathogens at a leading laboratory in the United States highlight the need for a major global rethink of biosafety controls, experts say.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, reported two accidents involving anthrax and the deadly H5N1 influenza virus. Biosafety professionals argue that such incidents show that without a strong culture of biosafety, even highly secure facilities are susceptible to errors that could place workers and the public at risk.
A second report, this time an editorial, suggests that lab accidents such as the ones making headlines this summer happen far more often than are ever reported, and calls for full transparency.
To create a strong biosafety culture, information on mishaps involving deadly pathogens must be reported and shared fully and transparently.