Select Agents and Toxins list hindering biosecurity, scientists say

Scientists have said that the Select Agents and Toxins list, rather than strengthening security, is, in fact, undermining the nation's security.

The list, which has been maintained since 2001 and lists 80 microbes and toxins that are basically forbidden to researchers, is chosen without input from any researchers.

In an article published in Nature Reviews Microbiology, scientists Arturo Casadevall and David Relman say that the list hinders research efforts and, as a result, the biosecurity of the nation.

Casadevall and Relman argue that the microbes and toxins on the list are nearly impossible to obtain for legitimate research, which the two say is needed to work on the creation of vaccines to protect people from the bioattacks the nation's government fears.

Many of the microbes on the list are chosen based solely upon their taxonomic category, which does not always work for microbes as they can have different strains of varying toxicity and overlap by species. The list, as a result, lists harmless microbe strains while missing dangerous ones.

The scientists also noted that it is incredibly difficult to appeal the inclusion of harmless microbes on the list.

The list, the duo says, should be cut down to only a few microbes and toxins. Additionally, the recommend that the process to chose those microbes and toxins should be made more transparent.