CDC's Select Agents Program protects against bioterror threats

The Select Agents Program of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ensures that biosafety measures protect the American public from anthrax and other threats, a CDC official said on Thursday.

Ali Khan, the director of the CDC's Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, joined the program during an inspection of a laboratory in the southeast region of the U.S. The Select Agents Program conducts inspections of labs that handle rare and dangerous pathogens like Ebola virus. Laboratories that possess and use such biological agents must be registered through the program.

During the inspection, the CDC team makes sure that all precautions are being taken to keep the public from being exposed to and harmed by potential health threats. Khan recounted his visit to the facility with the Select Agents Program team.

"Suited up in gowns, gloves, shoe covers, masks and other inspector accessories, we were ready to begin our inspection," Khan said. "Our goal was to go through all of their laboratory space to check that the facility was adhering to appropriate biosafety measures. We checked biological safety cabinets and animal cages, catalogued inventory, and performed other tasks associated with laboratory compliance."

While Khan only spent one day at the facility, the team continued to review the laboratory throughout the week. The team checked facility security, waste, storage, documents and its laboratory maintenance procedures. After the visit, the team will generate a report listing any observations that deviate from regulatory requirements. The facility will use the report to implement changes to receive standard renewal in the program.

Khan said the Select Agents Program keeps the public safe from dangerous biological agents and toxins.

"I was incredibly impressed with the Select Agents Program's laboratory inspection," Khan said. "I know that because of them, we can rest assured that high containment facilities operate at the toughest standards. Thanks to this program, the biosafety measures in place consistently enhance the safety and security that the CDC promises to uphold to the American people."