The National Academies

The National Academies: What You Need To Know About Infectious Disease

What You Need To Know About Infectious Disease

Biosecurity Challenges of the Global Expansion of High-Containment Biological Laboratories (2012)

During July 10-13, 2011, 68 participants from 32 countries gathered in Istanbul, Turkey for a workshop organized by the United States National Research Council on Anticipating Biosecurity Challenges of the Global Expansion of High-containment Biological Laboratories. The United States Department of State's Biosecurity Engagement Program sponsored the workshop, which was held in partnership with the Turkish Academy of Sciences. The international workshop examined biosafety and biosecurity issues related to the design, construction, maintenance, and operation of high-containment biological laboratories- equivalent to United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention biological safety level 3 or 4 labs. Although these laboratories are needed to characterize highly dangerous human and animal pathogens, assist in disease surveillance, and produce vaccines, they are complex systems with inherent risks.

Biosecurity Challenges of the Global Expansion of High-Containment Biological Laboratories summarizes the workshop discussion, which included the following topics:

Technological options to meet diagnostic, research, and other goals;

Laboratory construction and commissioning;

Operational maintenance to provide sustainable capabilities, safety, and security; and

Measures for encouraging a culture of responsible conduct.

Workshop attendees described the history and current challenges they face in their individual laboratories. Speakers recounted steps they were taking to improve safety and security, from running training programs to implementing a variety of personnel reliability measures. Many also spoke about physical security, access controls, and monitoring pathogen inventories. Workshop participants also identified tensions in the field and suggested possible areas for action.

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What do you know about infectious disease?

True or False: Thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative that was used in some vaccines and other products, has been shown to present a risk to human health.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    The use of thimerosal has been an object of controversy, with some arguing that the substance caused autism in children. However, extensive independent research has presented no convincing evidence of harm associated with the low levels of thimerosal previously present in vaccines.

  • Correct!

    The use of thimerosal has been an object of controversy, with some arguing that the substance caused autism in children. However, extensive independent research has presented no convincing evidence of harm associated with the low levels of thimerosal previously present in vaccines.