Lab Biosecurity Recommendations Supported by APHL, Some Concerns Remain

SILVER SPRING, MD--(Marketwire - March 25, 2010) -  The Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) commends the efforts of the Working Group on Strengthening the Biosecurity of the United States for its recent findings regarding the efficiency of existing policies on security in public health laboratories. Though the recommendations outlined in the report are largely supported by APHL, the proposed requirement for security checks of laboratory scientists are superfluous given the highly regulated environment in which public health laboratories operate.

APHL recommends that the Working Group direct its efforts toward enhancing mechanisms for oversight, standardization of personnel training, incident reporting and laboratory certification rather than attempting to detect traits or individuals who could potentially pose an insider threat. Mandatory psychological examinations of laboratory personnel, which were considered by the Working Group, would place an undue burden on labs at a time when they are already overburdened and understaffed. It would also require the creation of a secured storage and maintenance of employee medical records, a cost which the federal government would have to incur. Additionally, lab scientists are already required to participate in the federal security clearance process.

"State and local public health laboratories promote a culture of biosafety and biosecurity throughout their operations and especially in the laboratory suites that perform work utilizing select agents and highly pathogenic toxins," explained Susan Neill, president of APHL. "These actions, which protect the community served by the laboratory as well as its workforce, are required to conduct the tests that protect the public's health."

All state and local governmental laboratories pursuing work with select agents (pathogens that constitute a significant threat to human health) must maintain compliance with the Select Agent Regulations. This compliance is a critical requirement for these state and local governmental laboratories to serve as members of the Laboratory Response Network (LRN), which is responsible for safeguarding the health of the public through the early detection of attacks of bioterrorism, chemical terrorism, emerging infectious diseases and other public health threats.

The Association of Public Health Laboratories is a national non-profit located in Silver Spring, MD, that is dedicated to working with members to strengthen governmental laboratories with a public health mandate. By promoting effective programs and public policy, APHL strives to provide public health laboratories with the resources and infrastructure needed to protect the health of US residents and to prevent and control disease globally.

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Michelle Forman