March 12, 2003
United States Lacks Sufficient Biodefense Lab Space

The United States has too few ultra-safe biological research labs for working with the most dangerous pathogens.

Virologists call the world's most lethal disease organisms Level 4 pathogens. Experiments with them are confined to Biosafety Level 4, or BSL-4, labs. Those labs need to be sealed, pressurized areas designed to prevent pathogens from escaping, even in a nuclear blast.

Lab capacity is needed for testing to respond when an actual terrorist attack is suspected or known to be occurring.

While the funding includes money for two new BSL-4 labs, in Maryland and Montana, neither will be open for at least three years. Meanwhile, the four existing BSL-4 labs in the United States do not offer nearly enough space. If a biological attack occurred, creating the need for sample testing, the labs' capacity would be stretched past the breaking point, researchers say.

The other reason this type of lab space is needed is to test new vaccines and drug treatments against pathogens that would likely be used in a bioweapons attack. The lack of lab space discourages researchers from working on research for bioweapons defense against bioterrorism.

To deal with a bioterrorism attack the United States really needs highly secure labs scattered throughout the country located near major biomedical research centers. Also, the labs need an associated larger living area that scientists could move into and isolate themselves from the larger society if a major epidemic was raging. Boston, San Diego, and other cities with large concentrations of biomedical researchers should have the facilities that will allow them to put a large number of top researchers on developing counters to a plague introduced by terrorists.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2003 March 12 01:11 AM  Dangers Tech General


Comments
John Moore said at March 12, 2003 8:30 PM:

Hmmm... it's going to take 3 years to build the BL-4 labs?

It only took four for the entire manhattan project.

Me thinks they aren't trying hard enough!

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