Negative impact of laws regarding biosecurity and bioterrorism on real diseases

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Research on highly pathogenic microorganisms in biosafety level 3 and 4 laboratories is very important for human public health, as it provides opportunities for the development of vaccines and novel therapeutics as well as diagnostic methods to prevent epidemics. However, in recent years, after the anthrax and World Trade Center attacks in 2001 in the USA, the threat of bioterrorism has grown for both the public and the authorities. As a result, technical and physical containment measures and biosafety and biosecurity practices have been implemented in laboratories handling these dangerous pathogens. Working with selected biological agents and toxins is now highly regulated, owing to their potential to pose a threat to public health and safety, despite the fact that the anthrax attack was found to be the result of a lack of security at a US Army laboratory. Thus, these added regulations have been associated with a large amount of fruitless investment. Herein, we describe the limitations of research in these facilities, and the multiple consequences of the increased regulations. These limitations have seriously negatively impacted on the number of collaborations, the size of research projects, and, more generally, scientific research on microbial pathogens. Clearly, the actual number of known victims and fatalities caused by the intentional use of microorganisms has been negligible as compared with those caused by naturally acquired human infections.

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