Four ways for pathogens to leak from laboratories, despite adherence to all safety rules

(ORDO NEWS) — Lab safety has improved greatly in the past few decades. This is partly due to a better understanding of how pathogens spread, but mainly due to advances in technology, particularly in the past 20 years or so. We now have technology that can keep labs safe almost entirely automatically, requiring no human to put themselves in danger. Processes have also become more efficient, with the use of things like an RFID label to keep things organised and documented, whilst training is now more advanced.

However, Mark Cortepeter, professor of epidemiology at the University of Nebraska, said pathogens could leave laboratories even with strict safety regulations. There are four ways in total.

People continue to debate that the coronavirus pandemic is the result of the negligence of Chinese lab workers who allowed the virus to escape. This conspiracy theory still exists, despite the official statement of the WHO about the natural origin of the strain. The theory is highly unlikely to be true because scientists use a class II biosafety cabinet with advanced touchscreen display, which has a high level of contamination protection with two advanced ULPA filters. These equipment are designed for optimum protection and easy maintenance whenever sensitive work is in progress. Not just that, scientists are trained to take great care cleaning and handling potentially hazardous equipment.

However, according to Mark Cortepeter, viruses can escape even if all precautions are taken. There are four ways:

  • Aerosols. Each laboratory has air handling systems. The chances of spores bypassing the HEPA filter are extremely small, but they are. This happens when the filter is changed infrequently or when the concentration of the virus is too high, which is resistant to environmental influences.
  • Accidental contact in the laboratory. They try to protect workers from infection during experiments, but this is not always the case. There can be many reasons. It is good that most pathogens are not airborne.
  • “Escape” through an animal or object. In laboratories, the same rodents are used, sometimes primates. With their help, the virus may well “escape”. They can also be different items.
  • Deliberate distribution that should never be ruled out.


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