Working with biological materials does have inherent risks, and laboratory incidents will happen – the goal is to minimize risks to laboratory personnel, the community and the environment - David Gillum


image by: United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases

HWN Suggests

To protect from lab leaks, we need ‘banal’ safety rules, not anti-terrorism measures

Biological materials are almost never “leaked,” “released,” or “stolen.” Instead, pathogens and toxins walk out of laboratories across the globe because the required safety protocols are compromised or not followed at all. They leave the lab inadvertently, attached to the researcher working with or near the material.

There is no intrigue in that, no conspiracy or evil genius, only the banality of failing to enforce and follow existing procedures for accessing, handling, and storing biological matter. That may mean forgetting to wipe down a lab bench, using improper glove techniques, not wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment, or not cleaning equipment properly. These…

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 To protect from lab leaks, we need ‘banal’ safety rules, not anti-terrorism measures

The escape of SARS-CoV-2 from a research laboratory in Wuhan, China, continues to circulate as a viable and popular explanation for the pandemic’s origin. But by accepting the lab-leak hypothesis, leaders may mistakenly seek new policy solutions or focus on tenuous yet alluring proposals about biosecurity, including high-tech means of enforcing restricted access. We believe that such actions would be ineffective and costly diversions from the core issue of institutionalizing existing and effective biohazard protocols.


Biosafety is the application of safety precautions that reduce a laboratorian’s risk of exposure to a potentially infectious microbe and limit contamination of the work environment and, ultimately, the community.

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