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In the wake of disclosures that top government labs mishandled anthrax, smallpox and avian flu, U.S. health authorities are considering the once unthinkable: cutting the burgeoning number of labs working with the planet’s most dangerous microbes.
When the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week unveiled a report documenting multiple safety breaches at its labs, its director for the first time suggested the country turn back the rapid-fire proliferation of such research units, which have tripled in little more than a decade to at least 1,500.
“One of the things that we want to do is reduce the number of laboratories that work with dangerous agents to the absolute minimum necessary,” said CDC Director Dr Thomas Frieden. “Reduce the number of people who have access to those laboratories to the absolute minimum necessary. Reduce the number of dangerous pathogens we work with.”