US biosecurity concerns could harm collaboration.
Federal health agencies in the United States have acted to tighten security surrounding research on two deadly pathogens. The move is intended to enhance public safety, but some fear that it may hamper research in the United States and abroad.
Earlier this month, US health agencies added the SARS virus to its list of select agents — pathogens and toxins that it deems to have the “potential to pose a severe threat to public health and safety”. In addition, the agencies last week opened a public consultation about whether they should designate strains of H5N1 avian influenza virus that are transmissible between mammals as ‘Tier 1’ select agents — a newly created class subject to the strictest levels of biosecurity. The consultation comes after the Intragovernmental Select Agents and Toxins Technical Advisory Committee advised the agencies that the virus could “potentially overwhelm the health care system”.