Australia withholds location of new biodefense lab

Australia is refusing to release the urban location of a new biodefense laboratory due to fears of a targeted strike.


The "Physical Containment Level 3" complex started operation last week, and is the highest-security disease research facility in South Australia, according to the Adelaide Advertiser.


Janice Fletcher, the acting pathology director for the state, said the site will conduct assessments of "risk group 3" pathogens, which include tuberculosis and Q fever.


"The lab will process around 9,000 TB samples per year," Fletcher said, according to the Adelaide Advertiser. "[It] also has the capability to test for some other organisms, including a bioterrorism testing capability."


South Australia's new state health law helped establish grounds for the Mycobacterium Reference Laboratory. The facility is intended to provide support for serious disease events in the region.


South Australia Health Minister Jack Snelling said medical officials "recognized that we did not have a suitably rated containment laboratory for dealing with high-risk microorganisms." He said the facility can "operate at - or above - the level of leading laboratories in other states."


"We have to be prepared to respond quickly to test and find solutions to anything from naturally occurring superbugs to the event of a bioattack," Snelling said, according to the Adelaide Advertiser.