U.S. government makes changes to select agent and toxins list

The U.S. federal government released plans this week for changes to the way that pathogens are designated on the Select Agent and Toxins List.

The new tiered system places the most dangerous agents in the Tier 1 designation, which includes plague, Marburg virus, Ebola virus, foot-and-mouth disease, Burkholderia pseudomallei, Burkholderia mallei and Bacillus anthracis. The changes also include stricter precautions at scientific facilities that study any of the Tier 1 agents, Global Biodefense report.

Facilities with Tier 1 agents must now increase the frequency of investigations on personnel that have access to the substances. The installations must now have no fewer than three physical security barriers for agent holding areas, an auxiliary power mechanism and procedures in place to limit agent access to federally vetted personnel, according to Global Biodefense.

"Such tiering of the list allows for the optimization of security measures for those select agents or toxins that present the greatest risk of deliberate misuse with the most significant potential for mass casualties or devastating effects to the economy, critical infrastructure, or public confidence," the notice said, according to Global Biodefense.

The reorganization is the result of the biennial review of the program that is required under the Agricultural Bioterrorism Protection Act of 2002.