Warning issued to synthetic DNA manufacturers

The Department of Health and Human Services has warned U.S. businesses trading in DNA to be on guard against abuses leading to bioterrorism.

Guidelines for trading in customized DNA that can potentially lead to bioterrorism have been issued by the department. DNA sequencing, which consists of methods used to determine the order of the nucleotide bases in a DNA molecule, can lead to abuses used to terrorize and harm populations.

Some security experts have said that a lone terrorist or a terrorist group can now use DNA sequencing to develop biological weapons from materials readily distributed by synthetic DNA companies.

DNA sequencing has become a critical component in biological research and is applied in numerous fields, including diagnostic, biotechnology and forensic biology.

DNA sequencing has also aided in accelerating biological research and discovery as well as in the sequencing of the human genome by the Human Genome Project.

Synthetic DNA manufacturers, analysts worry, are not diligent enough in vetting their customers, which could allow bioterrorists access to DNA sequences.

It is not known if a specific customer had raised this cause for concern, but the companies were told to be on the lookout for customers who purchased the same product repeatedly, insisted on paying cash or asked suppliers to mislabel supplies.