We've all been exposed to a great deal of media coverage regarding the newest iteration of the coronavirus over the past few days but there is one story that really hasn't received much coverage as you will see in this posting.
Let's look at some background first. From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, here is a summary of each of the four Biosafety Levels:
Let's focus on the BSL-4 laboratories since they deal with the world's most deadly pathogens. Here is a partial listing of BSL-4 labs around the world current to 2011:
According to the Federation of American Scientists, in 2014, there were 13 operational or planned BSL-4 labs in the United States:
In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requested $400 million to build a new lab and to complete related work to house the world's deadliest pathogens as shown here:
Now, let's focus on China and its efforts to build a BSL-4 facility. Here is a report dated February 6, 2015 from China Daily:
Here is another report from China Daily about the lab in Wuhan and its potential:
Here is an interesting February 2017 article from Nature:
The laboratory is certified as meeting the standards of BSL-4 by China's National Accreditation Service for Conformity Assessment in January 2017. This means that the lab which cost $44 million US to build can now handle the world's most dangerous pathogens and is the only lab in China capable of doing so. According to the article in Nature, China plans to build a total of five to seven BSL-4 laboratories across China by 2025.
Let's close with this 2004 article about China and its efforts to contain the SARS virus at its Beijing BSL-3 laboratory:
So, is it just a coincidence that the world's latest potential pandemic-creating coronavirus was first discovered in the same city as China's only BSL-4 laboratory? Let's close with a quote from the 2017 article in Nature:
"But worries surround the Chinese lab, too. The SARS virus has escaped from high-level containment facilities in Beijing multiple times, notes Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey. Tim Trevan, founder of CHROME Biosafety and Biosecurity Consulting in Damascus, Maryland, says that an open culture is important to keeping BSL-4 labs safe, and he questions how easy this will be in China, where society emphasizes hierarchy. “Diversity of viewpoint, flat structures where everyone feels free to speak up and openness of information are important,” he says."
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