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The Biosafety Mess

For 20 years, I was the curator of the world's largest bacteriophage collection: the Felix d'Herelle Reference Center for Bacterial Viruses (HER 607).

Hans-Wolfgang Ackermann
<p>Hans-Wolfgang Ackermann</p>

Courtesy of Laval University

For 20 years, I was the curator of the world's largest bacteriophage collection: the Felix d'Herelle Reference Center for Bacterial Viruses (HER 607). The collection, now transferred to another laboratory at Laval University, houses some 450 bacteriophages and a similar number of bacterial hosts. During my tenure, I shipped bacteria and bacteriophages around the world, and I received many complaints on shipping regulations. The recent publication of the US Select Agents and Toxin Regulations1 reminded me that it is time to revise shipment and import regulations for certain agents.

Some background: For handling and transportation, human pathogenic microorganisms are commonly divided into four risk groups (RG),2 also called biosafety or confinement levels. Organisms in RG1 are not known to consistently cause disease in healthy adults. RG2 organisms are associated with human disease that is rarely serious and for which preventive or therapeutic...

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