New Scientist Breaking News – Safety fears raised over biosecurity lapse

January 21st, 2005 | researchmaterial

Three researchers at the Boston University Medical Center fell ill in 2004 after being exposed a potentially deadly bacterium in a Level 2 biosecurity lab. Yet city and university officials kept the news quiet until after the centre’s application to build a more high-level biosecurity lab (Level 4) in a densely populated part of Boston was accepted by the city this January.

University officials blamed careless procedures in their existing Level 2 lab, and say the researchers were studying a strain of the bacterium which causes tularaemia, also known as “rabbit fever”, but had thought the strain was harmless.

A strikingly similar incident also occurred in 2004 when a new biodefence lab at Oakland Children’s Hospital in California, US, received live anthrax instead of dead germs…

is extremely infectious – inhaling less than 10 bacteria can cause the disease. That makes it a potential agent, although it is not as deadly or fast-developing as anthrax…

[Related: The Virus Hunter.]


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