Biosafety practices neglected in Africa

The implementation of practices related to biosafety in Africa have been held back and neglected as a result of insufficient training and laboratory equipment throughout the continent, according to a top biosafety official.

Paul Okemo, the chief executive officer of the African Biological Safety Association, said that countries in Africa must improve their biosafety practices to reap the benefits and avoid the potential risk of biological agents. Okemo spoke at AfBSA's third annual conference in Johannesburg, South Africa on June 26, reports.

Okemo said that biosafety cabinets were rarely checked for efficacy, doctors and nurses use the same gloves when treating multiple patients and that equipment is not up to date.

"(Africa) lacks the political and social environments conducive to encouraging such practices," Julius Mugwagwa, the program officer at the African Biosafety Network of Expertise, said, according to "There is a strong desire for biotechnology and its use in socioeconomic development, but a disconnection with implementing the necessary frameworks."

Mugwagwa said that the government funding simply isn't there to increase biosafety.

Edith Lem, an AfBSA member, revealed the results of a survey that found that 17 out of 23 laboratories in Cameroon had health standards that were unacceptable. More than two-thirds of staff members stored food and beverages in the same refrigerators as specimens.

Lem did offer some encouraging news, saying that measures have been taken to implement biosafety training at laboratories that were found to have substandard practices.