July 30, 2014 – : Bioterrorism Potential
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Anchor lead: Does poor custodianship of human pathogens increase the likelihood they’ll be used as bioterrorism instruments? Elizabeth Tracey reports
One widespread fear in the wake of the discovery of unknown smallpox stores in a federal laboratory is the idea that if custodianship is so poor such stores could be obtained by terrorists. Andrew Pekosz, a human pathogens researcher and laboratory safety expert at Johns Hopkins, says the potential for bioterrorism varies with the bug being discussed.
Pekosz: Anthrax for instance has obviously been weaponized in multiple laboratories and so that represents something that potentially could be a problem. So it really depends on the particular pathogen you’re talking about and based on that pathogen the balance between investigating that pathogen to try and understand why it’s such a harmful agent to the human population versus keeping things around that maybe you’re not really using for research purposes but that represent things that could be distributed incorrectly. :28
Pekosz says growing and scaling up many human pathogens is not easily done even if they are obtained. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.