Lessons to be Learned from Recent Biosafety Incidents in the United States

Isr Med Assoc J. 2015 May;17(5):269-73.


During recent months, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the occurrence of three major biosafety incidents, raising serious concern about biosafety and biosecurity guideline implementation in the most prestigious agencies in the United States: the CDC, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). These lapses included: a) the mishandling of Bacillus anthracis spores potentially exposing dozens of employees to anthrax; b) the shipment of low pathogenic influenza virus unknowingly cross-contaminated with a highly pathogenic strain; and c) an inventory lapse of hundreds of samples of biological agents, including six vials of variola virus kept in a cold storage room for decades, unnoticed. In this review we present the published data on these events, report the CDC inquiry's main findings, and discuss the key lessons to be learnt to ensure safer scientific practice in biomedical and microbiological service and research laboratories.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacillus anthracis*
  • Biohazard Release / prevention & control*
  • Biomedical Research / standards
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S.
  • Containment of Biohazards / methods
  • Containment of Biohazards / standards
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Humans
  • Laboratories / standards
  • National Institutes of Health (U.S.)
  • Occupational Exposure / prevention & control*
  • Orthomyxoviridae*
  • Safety Management / organization & administration*
  • Specimen Handling / standards*
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration
  • Variola virus*