Biosecurity: Unsupervised Laboratories And The Epidemic Threats They Create

We witnessed an uncontrollable virus sickening 166 million people around the world and killing millions in a year and a half. Regardless of the origin of the coronavirus, these events have brought the issue of bio-security and the control of biological threats to the top of the world’s agenda.

According to official figures, Covid-19 has claimed the lives of 3.4 million people in the world. However, experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) calculate that the real figure may be at least 8 million.

The US administration announced last week that it is launching a new initiative to investigate the initial source of the coronavirus. In this context, the issue of whether the virus accidentally leaked out of a laboratory in Wuhan, China will be investigated once again.

The WHO review earlier in the year concluded that the probability was “extremely slim”. However, it is a well-known fact that there is always the possibility of a lethal virus leaking from a laboratory.

In this regard, a leading biological warfare expert warned the developed countries, known as the G7 group, to tighten up the measures in this regard, and said that poorly supervised laboratories could be an easy target for those who want to carry out terrorist attacks.

Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon is a former soldier who commanded Britain’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear warfare unit. Later, when he started his academic life, he made studies on the effects of chemical and biological warfare, especially in Iraq and Syria.

“Unfortunately, I’ve spent most of my life in places where run-of-the-mill governments try to harm others. I think labs working on this type of weapon (chemical-biological) are a clear target for terrorists and some others, and it’s our job to make it as difficult as possible for them,” he says. .

The World Health Organization has described the likelihood of the coronavirus leaking from the lab as "extremely low"


photo caption,The World Health Organization has described the likelihood of the coronavirus leaking from the lab as “extremely low”

How much are they audited?

International control over laboratories where dangerous viruses are produced and researched on viruses is unsettlingly weak.

Laboratories that work on different microbes that cause diseases are classified from 1 to 4 according to the potential risk of the pathogens examined.

There are more than 50 laboratories in the world that fall into category 4, the most dangerous level. One of them is Porton Down, near Salisbury, where Britain’s most secret biological and chemical research laboratory is located.

Porton Down is said to be the “gold standard” in terms of safety, and category 4 labs are often heavily regulated.

But labs in category 3 are both more common and less audited. Colonel de Bretton-Gordon says there are more than 3,000 labs in the world that fall into this category.

Most of them are doing medical research, but while doing this, it is also possible to have viruses such as Covid-19 and to conduct experiments on them.

There are also such laboratories in countries such as Iran, Syria, and North Korea, which are viewed more suspiciously by the outside world.

Former CIA chief David Patreus, a retired general, says the threat posed by biological weapons needs to be taken much more seriously


photo caption,Former CIA chief David Petraeus, a retired general, says the threat posed by biological weapons needs to be taken much more seriously

Chemical weapons are better controlled

Control of chemical weapons is much better regulated than biological threats.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was created in 1997 based on the Chemical Weapons Convention and currently 193 countries are members of this organization. The organization has the authority to conduct de facto inspections of its members in order to prevent illegal chemical weapons research.

As the events in Syria show, it is not always possible to prevent the production and use of chemical weapons, but the OPCW is still an active and effective organization.

But the control of biological weapons research is not that tight. The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), which prohibits the use of biological and toxic substances as weapons, entered into force in 1975. But fewer countries have signed on to the BWC, and there has never been agreement on a control method that members can fully accept.

Colonel de Bretton-Gordon hopes that the risk posed by centers for biological research around the world will be on the agenda of the G7 summit in June, and he is lobbying the UK government for this purpose. He is supported in this activity by retired general David Patreus, former head of the US Central Intelligence Agency CIA.

“I think every US president would want to support such a proposal. World leaders should make progress on this. Some, like North Korea, may oppose for their own reasons, but I think a significant number of world leaders will want action taken,” Patreus says.

Countries focused on the control of nuclear weapons for decades, followed by the suppression of the use and production of chemical weapons. Still, chemical weapons killed many people. These include weapons used against the Kurds in Iraq in 1988 and thousands of people who died in Syria with weapons used in ten civil wars.

But considering that 8 million people may have died due to a coronavirus, it is impossible not to see how colossal a biological threat the viruses pose, which can leak from the over three thousand and not strictly controlled laboratories.