Biosafety and laboratory biosecurity
Good biosafety, laboratory biosecurity and biocontainment practices are fundamental to public health. Perhaps the failure to follow appropriate biosafety and laboratory biosecurity practices may still be the greatest threat for the reappearance of SARS. Likewise, biosafety, laboratory biosecurity and biocontainment practices are crucial for the safekeeping of poliovirus within laboratories as laboratories and culture collections become the only repositories of the wild poliovirus. The continuing implementation of appropriate biosafety, laboratory biosecurity and biocontainment practices is essential to prevent the release of variola viruses from the two custodial repositories (CDC, Atlanta, GA, USA, and VECTOR, Koltsovo, Novosibirsk Region, Russian Federation), where research on these viruses is carried out.
Responsible laboratory practices, including protection, control and accountability for valuable biological materials will help prevent their unauthorized access, loss, theft, misuse, diversion or intentional release, and contribute to preserving scientifically important work for future generations.
The focus of WHO remains exclusively on the public health aspects of preparedness and response to global health events. However, a significant number of Member States are currently unequipped and unprepared to effectively address these complex issues. The vulnerabilities of these least-capable states reflect the vulnerabilities of the global community at large. No disease will remain eradicated or effectively contained unless and until Member States at every level of capacity participate in essential global health practices. The continuing appearance of highly virulent emerging and re-emerging infectious agents highlights the need for coordinated preparedness in support of global public health.
The world is acknowledging the need to follow strict biosafety and laboratory biosecurity principles and practices when handling and storing pathogenic microorganisms. The WHO Biosafety and Laboratory Biosecurity programme addresses these issues and provides Member States with appropriate tools to achieve uniform biorisk management. Many steps can facilitate this, such as the implementation of recommendations described in the WHO Laboratory biosafety manual (3rd edition, 2004), in the WHO Biorisk management: laboratory biosecurity guidance (2006), and in the latest UN Model Regulations for the Transport of Dangerous Goods (2007), including infectious substances.
Appropriate biorisk management measures tailored to specific facility needs allow the development and implementation of cost-effective, performance-based protection systems.