A coalition of scientists defended studies on hazardous pathogens after laboratory missteps, the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy reports.
“Biomedical research on potentially dangerous pathogens can be performed safely and is essential,” the new, 36-member group said in a statement quoted by the news service on Wednesday. The signers included Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Ron Fouchier of Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, key proponents of research that can produce deadlier forms of avian influenza.
The “Scientists for Science” coalition issued the remarks on the heels of several safety incidents at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including an unintended transfer of avian flu from its headquarters in Atlanta. A second lapse prompted fears that dozens of CDC workers had been exposed to anthrax, shortly before workers in Maryland discovered a cache of forgotten smallpox samples at a Food and Drug Administration facility.
The new group’s members said such incidents highlight the importance of safety measures at laboratories responsible for handling dangerous disease agents. However, they cautioned against restricting research conducted at such sites.