Safety and simulation training begins at under-fire Boston University biosafety lab

Safety and simulation training has begun on Boston University's Biosafety Level-4 laboratory even as the National Institutes of Health continues weighing the labs safety options.

The lab was initially assessed in 2007 by the National Research Council and found to be "not sound and credible." The South End biolab, which is meant to house anthrax, plague and Ebola, is waiting on an additional NIH risk assessment to determine the safety of researching such pathogens.

Live agents are not yet employed for research at the lab while safety and simulation training exercises at the biolab are ongoing. The training exercises are expected to continue for the next few months.

The exercises consist of two-part instruction utilizing both classroom learning and hands-on training. A small group of 18 researchers are also being taught safety procedures, including the correct method for properly putting on protective suits.

The lab has also been in discussions with the city's police and fire departments to determine safety protocol for the BSL-4 lab in the event of a lab accident. In such an event, the Boston Public Health Commission's regulations would be followed.

Fears about the new lab's safety were raised following recent contaminations of a BU graduate student infected with a strain of meningitis he was studying in late October.

Demonstrations have also been held against the BSL-4 lab, including one on Oct. 30 that consisted of a small group of people who dressed as zombies and marched across the BU campus.

Local citizens' main complaint about the lab is that the city is not prepared for a catastrophe resulting from the accidental or on purpose release of a bioagent from the lab, which is situated in a civilian population center.

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National Institutes of Health 9000 Rockville Pike Bethesda, MD 20892

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