Could Safety Lapses in the Lab Lead to Pandemic?
the MPR take:
Following three recent events involving potential exposure of anthrax, smallpox, and the H5N1 strain of influenza to workers in government laboratories, concerns have been raised about safety in infectious disease research. In particular, the field known as gain-of-function research has been under fire for its potentially dangerous studies that could create a pandemic with simple human error. In gain-of-function research, the goal is to analyze how dangerous viruses are transmitted to prevent these types of outbreaks and pandemics; this is accomplished by manipulating viruses to make them stronger and more easily transmitted. If these dangerous pathogens were to be released from the lab, public health could be in significant danger. Most of this research is conducted in biosafety level (BSL) 3 labs with tight protection protocols, but there is still a slight risk of transmission. Both supporters and opponents are fearful that tight restrictions on gain-of-function studies could stifle research on pressing viruses of which there is no vaccine, such as SARS.
There had to be a sinking feeling in the chest of every researcher who works in a high-containment research laboratory last Friday when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its report on three worrisome incidents that raised safety questions at two well-respected ...
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