CDC Issues Guidelines To Improve Security of Dangerous Pathogens in Laboratories
The CDC yesterday issued detailed guidelines to improve security at laboratories that research dangerous pathogens and until now "have largely gone unregulated," the AP/Nando Times reports. The guidelines recommend that the labs monitor and secure pathogen storage areas and limit access to researchers with authorization to work with the pathogens. Next week, the CDC plans to publish a new regulation to require improved security at labs that have "select agents" -- 42 pathogens and toxins that pose the most danger to public health. The list includes bacteria that cause anthrax and plague and viruses such as ebola. The rule will require labs that possess select pathogens to register with the CDC or the Department of Agriculture and undergo an inspection. Under current law, only labs that transfer or receive pathogens must register, "leaving a giant loophole," the AP/Times reports. The rule also will require background checks for researchers who work with select agents and mandate that labs develop a biosecurity plan. The guidelines issued yesterday will help labs develop the plans. The CDC will take public comment for 60 days before the issue of a final rule. The number of labs that have select agents remains "unclear"; the AP/Times reports that about 350 to 500 labs have registered with the CDC, and Steve Ostroff, deputy director of the CDC's National Center for Infectious Diseases, said that a "substantially higher" number would register as a result of the new rule. Last month, the General Accounting Office released a report that said that CDC enforcement of a 1997 federal law enacted to track the transfer of select agents has a number of problems and poses an "urgent and potentially serious public health threat" (Meckler, AP/Nando Times, 12/5).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.