In a major investigative piece published last week, USA Today scrutinized biolabs across the US and found “hundreds of lab mistakes, safety violations and near-miss incidents” that put scientists and sometimes the public at risk.
The mishaps include missing vials of extremely dangerous bacteria, escaped mice infected with lethal viruses and failure-prone lab gear.
The problem is worsened by the fact that the names of research facilities that have committed egregious safety or security breaches are kept secret by federal regulators.
The article notes the post-9/11 proliferation of biosafety level 3 and 4 labs that work with the most dangerous pathogens. “The scope of their research and safety records are largely unknown to most state health departments charged with responding to disease outbreaks,” according to the article.