July 29, 2014 – Why Store?
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Anchor lead: Why do we keep dangerous human pathogens in storage? Elizabeth Tracey reports
The recent unearthing of smallpox samples in a federal laboratory calls into question not just laboratory safety practices but why such virulent human pathogens are kept in storage at all. Andrew Pekosz, a human pathogens researcher and laboratory safety expert at Johns Hopkins, says at least some pathogens should remain stockpiled in laboratories.
Pekosz: I think influenza is a great example. There are so many animal reservoirs for various strains of influenza that it becomes impractical for us to even attempt this idea of eradicating a particular strain of influenza. Therefore there is some benefit to having a large variety of different virus strains stored away so that we can get a sense of how diverse the viruses are, how their characteristics change, and get some sense of preparation for the kinds of viruses that might be able to acquire the ability to infect humans. :31
Pekosz agrees, however, that some stockpiles would be better off eliminated. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.