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Biotech Medicine Science

Threatened Pandemics and Laboratory Escapes: Self-fulfilling Prophecies 94

Lasrick (2629253) writes "Martin Furmanski, a medical doctor and medical historian, writes of the laboratory escapes of high-consequence pathogens that have occurred in recent decades (including several instances of smallpox!). The article explores 'gain of function" experiments-- experiments in which researchers manipulate dangerous pathogens to increase communicability among humans, and whether the benefit we see from those experiments outweighs the incredible risk. 'Many other laboratory escapes of high-consequence pathogens have occurred, resulting in transmission beyond laboratory personnel. Ironically, these laboratories were working with pathogens to prevent the very outbreaks they ultimately caused. For that reason, the tragic consequences have been called "self-fulfilling prophecies.''"
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Threatened Pandemics and Laboratory Escapes: Self-fulfilling Prophecies

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  • Captain Trips!! (Score:4, Informative)

    by neilo_1701D ( 2765337 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2014 @12:35PM (#46631281)

    This was the basis for a Stephen King story in 1978, "The Stand".

    Also "The Hot Zone" was a non-fictional account of an Ebola outbreak from a lab.

  • Re:Better Idea (Score:4, Informative)

    by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2014 @12:52PM (#46631455)
    Well, if you want all possible funds going towards logistical problems rather than actual research on the intended subject area, sure, we could try that. I'll note that nothing is 100% sure: in the middle of the ocean, you could still have people stealing pathogens and releasing them for terrorism.

    BSL4 labs are no joke already. We already spend a lot on the BSL4 facilities themselves, 1.2 billion in 2003 for example. [] The safety measures inside are considerable:

    When dealing with biological hazards at this level the use of a positive pressure personnel suit, with a segregated air supply, is mandatory. The entrance and exit of a level four biolab will contain multiple showers, a vacuum room, an ultraviolet light room, and other safety precautions designed to destroy all traces of the biohazard. Multiple airlocks are employed and are electronically secured to prevent both doors opening at the same time. All air and water service going to and coming from a biosafety level 4 (or P4) lab will undergo similar decontamination procedures to eliminate the possibility of an accidental release.

    wiki []

    Diseases that are out there in the wild, it seems stupid to suggest there's more of a risk from studying it than dealing with it if it happens. Smallpox, which has been eliminated in the wild and that we have a vaccine for, you could definitely make the case, however there would still be smallpox sources out there. [], it could re-emerge. There is no antiviral drug approved for smallpox. [] If we get wind that someone is making a smallpox bomb, or if it re-emerges naturally, we'd probably want to start testing cidofovir or some other drugs ASAP. And sticking all our labs dealing with it in the middle of the ocean is a good way to make sure that's as slow as possible.

The intelligence of any discussion diminishes with the square of the number of participants. -- Adam Walinsky