Singapore SARS case raises concerns

WHO expert says a global biosecurity system needed to keep labs in shape

Robert Walgate(walgate@scienceanalysed.com)
Sep 25, 2003

Inadequate training and poor laboratory practice in a Singapore lab resulted in a 27-year-old postdoctoral student coming down with the first case of severe acute respiratory syndrome for months, reports from the World Health Organization and Singapore Ministry of Health said this week.

The postdoc had been studying West Nile virus in a biosafety level three (BSL3) laboratory at the Singapore Environmental Health Institute, where the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus was also under investigation.

Although this case poses no public health threat, the Singapore experience highlights concerns about the potential risks arising from labs, said Klaus Stöhr, a scientist with World Health Organization (WHO) Communicable Disease Surveillance and Response.

"We have done so much to control the disease...and a minor mistake in a lab could take us back to square one," he told The Scientist.

"Very many labs around the world have been working with the...

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