ASM issues statement on U.S. biosafety lapses

The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) said on Monday that microbiologists must take all steps possible to guarantee safety for themselves, their coworkers and the broader public from pathogenic microorganisms.

Timothy Donohue, the president of ASM, and Ronald Atlas, the chair of ASM's Public and Scientific Affairs Board, made the remarks after the recent biosafety lapses at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health. Donohue and Atlas said a CDC report revealed significant lapses in biosecurity, biosafety, oversight and compliance with select agent and toxin regulations, according to an ASM press release.

"At every level, in teaching, research, and diagnostic laboratories, microbiologists must take all steps possible to guarantee biosafety, to protect themselves, their co-workers, and the broader public from microorganisms that can cause disease," Donohue and Atlas said. "Microbiologists who work with dangerous pathogens have a responsibility to understand and comply with biosafety and biosecurity regulations. As such, ASM members must ensure that they are acting with the highest level of responsibility and accountability in their laboratories."

Donohue and Atlas said that work to detect, respond to and prevent infectious diseases must be conducted as safely as possible.

"Toward that end, we urge microbiologists to review their laboratory procedures and to ensure that they are compliant with biosafety regulations and best practices," Donahue and Atlas said. "Microbiologists and institutions should regularly inventory all areas of storage to maintain an accurate and up-to-date inventory of materials to be certain there are no unaccounted for infectious agents and toxins. Identified lapses in biosafety and biosecurity must be reported promptly to the appropriate institutional authorities."

Donohue and Atlas concluded that public health and safety are of the highest importance and microbiologists have a professional responsibility to maintain public trust.

Organizations in this story

American Society for Microbiology 1752 N St NW Washington, DC 20036

National Institutes of Health 9000 Rockville Pike Bethesda, MD 20892

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