Biosafety level 4 labs, such as the one in Wuhan, China, where researchers work with the most dangerous pathogens on the planet. Spread across 23 countries, they operate under unequal safety standards.
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Its focal point lab-leak discussion is the Wuhan Institute of Virology, located in the mountainous part of Wuhan. It is just one of the 59 most common prevention labs used, maintained or built worldwide.
Known as biosafety level 4 (BSL4) labs, they are designed and built so that researchers can safely work with the most dangerous pathogens on the planet – causes of serious illness and for which there is no treatment or vaccine. Researchers are required to wear a full-body pressurized suit with independent oxygen.
Spread over 23 countries, the largest concentration of BSL4 labs is in Europe, with 25 labs. North America and Asia have roughly the same number, with 14 and 13 respectively. Australia has four and Africa has three. Like the Wuhan Institute of Virology, three quarters in the world’s labs BSL4 is in urban centers.
With 3,000m² of lab space, the Wuhan Institute of Virology is the largest BSL4 lab in the world, although it will soon be overtaken by National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility at Kansas State University in the US When it is completed, it will boast more than 4,000m² of BSL4 lab space.
Most labs are significantly smaller, with half of the 44 labs where data under 200m² can be used-less than half the size of a professional basketball court or about three-quarters the size. on a tennis court.
Nearly 60% of BSL4 labs are run by government public health institutions, leaving 20% run by universities and 20% by biodefense agencies. These labs are used to detect infections that contain deadly and identifiable pathogens, or they are used to research these pathogens to improve our scientific understanding of how they work and to create new ones. medication, vaccinations and diagnostic tests.
But far from all labs have a good safety and reliability score. the Global Health Security Index, which measures whether countries have laws, regulations, governing agencies, biosafety and biosecurity policies and training, points out. Led by US-based Nuclear Threat Initiative, the index showed that only un-rooms in countries with BSL4 labs received high scores for biosafety and biosecurity. It suggests many areas for improvement for countries to develop comprehensive biorisk management systems.
Membership in International Groups of Experts on Biosafety and Biosecurity Regulator, in which national regulatory authorities share the best practices in this field, is another indicator of national biosafety and biosecurity practices. Only 40% of countries with BSL4 labs are forum members: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Singapore, Switzerland, UK and US And no lab has yet registered a voluntary biorisk management system (ISO 35001), introduced in 2019 to establish management processes to minimize biosafety and biosecurity risks.
Most countries with the largest number of indoor labs do not control the research used by both, which means experiments are conducted for peaceful purposes but can be adapted to harm – or get-to-function the research, which focused on increasing the ability of a pathogen to cause disease.
Three of the 23 countries with BSL4 labs (Australia, Canada and the US) have national policies for conducting dual -use research. At least three other countries (Germany, Switzerland and the UK) have some form of dual use management, where, for example, funding bodies must provide recipients with a grant review of their research for both. used implication.
Increasing demand for BSL4 labs
That still leaves a large proportion of the scientific research on coronaviruses done in countries that do not have the research management used in both or experiments to gain use. It is particularly well known that research to benefit with coronaviruses is likely to increase as scientists seek to better understand these viruses and to determine which viruses present a higher risk. to jump from animals to humans or to be caught among humans. Many countries are expected to seek BSL4 labs, too, after a pandemic as part of a renewed emphasis on pandemic preparedness and response.
While the COVID-19 The pandemic serves as a complete reminder of the dangers posed by infectious diseases and the importance of a robust biomedical research business for saving lives, we must also keep in mind that such research can bring about self -risk. Good science and wise policy, however, will keep the risks under scrutiny and allow the public to reap the benefits of this research.
Originally published on The Speech.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Children’s Health Defense.