Patriot Act raised cost of anthrax research, study says

While the Patriot Act and Bioterrorism Preparedness Act made it more difficult for anyone to obtain pathogens needed to launch a bioterror attack, the acts also had a few unintentional drawbacks, according to a study released this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The rules have impeded scientists’ abilities to study these pathogens, lead researcher Elizabeth Casman said.

Casman also found more good news-bad news with the study. On one hand, the acts did not stop new scientists from entering this specific field. However, the overall regulations built into both acts has significantly raised the cost of studying anthrax and the Ebola virus and has made research time much slower.

Specifically, the cost of scientific papers on anthrax climbed to five to six times more expensive. The cost of Ebola papers became twice as expensive, Casman told Discover Magazine.

Casman attributed the raise in cost to newly required exhaustive record-keeping. In addition, new regulations within both acts also demands tighter documentation for the use of, guarding of and  transportation of certain biological agents.

“As a result, they are burying researchers studying select agents with administrative duties,” Casman told Researchers Casman spoke to “all complained of the paperwork. A lot of it, they just find overwhelming”

In an interview with Nature, biodefense policy expert Vickie Sutton agreed with Casman’s overall assessment of the situation, specifically noting that the acts are not helping to secure lab supplies of anthrax and Ebola, but rather slowing down knowledge of these biohazards.

“A missing test tube would draw immediate attention from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” Sutton told Nature. “But the system does nothing to prevent the use of samples withdrawn from a live culture to seed a new culture. You could every day be giving this agent out to someone. It’s nonsense.”