Monday, June 1, 2015

Shoddy biosecurity at labs exposed

Dangerous diseases are escaping from some of the top laboratories in the United States, reports USA Today newspaper.
Included are anthrax, avian influenza and Ebola virus, says the newspaper.
‘Vials of bioterror bacteria have gone missing. Lab mice infected with deadly viruses have escaped, and wild rodents have been found making nests with research waste," say the newspaper's investigative reporters who pieced together their report from documents obtained via Freedom to Information.
One can only wish they had included Canadian labs in their research. The federal one at Winnipeg handles some of the world's most dangerous diseases that could devastate the livestock and poultry industries.
"Cattle infected in a university's vaccine experiments were repeatedly sent to slaughter and their meat sold for human consumption," reports USA Today.
"Gear meant to protect lab workers from lethal viruses such as Ebola and bird flu has failed, repeatedly."
High-profile lab accidents last year with anthrax, Ebola and bird flu at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the discovery of forgotten vials of deadly smallpox virus at the National Institutes of Health raised widespread concerns about lab safety and security nationwide and whether current oversight is adequate to protect workers and the public.
Wednesday the Department of Defense disclosed one of its labs in Utah mistakenly sent samples of live anthrax -- instead of killed specimens – to labs across the USA plus a military base in South Korea where 22 people are now being treated with antibiotics because of their potential exposure to the bioterror pathogen.
"What the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) incidents showed us ... is that the very best labs are not perfectly safe," says Marc Lipsitch, a Harvard University professor of epidemiology. "If it can happen there, it certainly can happen anywhere."