Study questions U.S.'s ability to detect biothreats

A recently published workshop summary by the Institute of Medicine revealed that the goal of creating an integrated biosurveillance system in the United States to detect threats to human and animal health remains a long way off.

A biosurveillance system, called for in a 2004 presidential directive, still faces complex obstacles, including a lack of trust between relevant agencies, according to CIDRAP News.

The IOM workshop's participants cited a range of problems that face the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's National Biosurveillance Information System. According to the report, there is still a lack of built-in authority to regulate the agencies that collect the relevant data.

Dr. William Raub, a former science advisor to the U.S. Health and Human Services secretary, recently said that the obstacles represented a serious challenge to the formation of a robust and relevant system.

"The collaboration, the sharing, and the integration are difficult in the context of multiple agencies with multiple missions and a rich variety of data sets, including areas where the data sets are nonexistent," Raub said, CIDRAP News reports. "If it were easy, it would be done."

The workshop was held last September. Its account was recently published as "Information Sharing and Collaboration: Applications to Integrated Biosurveillance: Workshop Summary." The IOM is part of the Academy of Sciences, but the report reflects only the views of the participants, not those of the IOM.