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Medical News and Perspectives
November 28, 2007

Congress Queries Need for and Safety of High-Containment Research Laboratories

JAMA. 2007;298(20):2359-2360. doi:10.1001/jama.298.20.2359

In light of increasing concerns over the threats of bioterror attacks or infectious disease outbreaks, the US federal government has funded the rapid expansion of the nation's capacity for researching bioagents and developing countermeasures. But now some in Congress are questioning the merits of such laboratory growth, citing safety and oversight issues.

Since 2003, officials have received more than 100 reports of exposures in high-containment research laboratories and lost shipments involving some of the world's most virulent pathogens. Moreover, the frequency of these mishaps is increasing, with 36 such episodes reported during the first 8 months of 2007—more than all reported in 2006. No deaths have been linked to the incidents or lost shipments.

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