Federal investigators have found major security problems at a biosafety laboratory at Georgia State University that handles some of the world’s deadliest microbes, the Associated Press reported today.
The article quotes a report issued today by the Government Accountability Office, which examined the five American facilities designed to handle pathogens for which there are no cures, such as the Ebola and smallpox viruses. The labs are designated Biosafety Level 4 or BSL-4.
The report says that two of the five lack important security features, such as visible armed guards and security cameras surrounding the exterior of the facilities. Although the report does not identify the specific labs, the AP says that one of them is operated by Georgia State, in Atlanta.
Universities are involved in several BSL-4 labs. The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston operates one lab is and is building a second. A new facility is under construction at Boston University, although that project has suffered setbacks because of community opposition. The Boston Globe reported this week that scientists working at the facility will have to complete psychological tests and financial-background checks designed to prevent unstable people from getting access to the deadly pathogens. —Richard Monastersky