Editorial: Baxter’s H5N1 as global flu pandemic threat
There is no excuse. According to the scientific network PROMED, Baxter International Inc. in Austria "unintentionally contaminated samples with the bird flu virus that were used in laboratories in 3 neighbouring countries, raising concern about the potential spread of the deadly disease". Austria, Germany, Slowenia and the Czech Republic - these are the countries in which labs were hit with dangerous viruses. Not by bioterrorist commandos, but by Baxter. In other words: One of the major global pharmaceutical players seems to have lost control over a virus which is considered by many virologists to be one of the components leading some day to a new pandemic. Was it H5N1, or the even more risky H3N2? And what about the BSL3-Standards Baxter is operating when handling the viruses? What happened? And who failed? by Vlad Georgescu
These questions have to be answered not only by Baxter itself. It looks difficult to believe that viral and potentially lethal samples can cross the US border, pass the Atlantic, arrive the European Union and get into three countries without any or adequate control. While every tourist has to present his fingerprints and electronic registered passports entering the United States, institutions like the US Homeland Security should stay alert: Lacks in pharmaceutical companies may be the deadly door to future bioterrorist attacks.
The anthrax mailings from 2001 still are in mind of the FBI – Baxter shows that 8 years after that disaster there is no efficient control, at no level. To pronounce it this way is legitimated by the facts. H5N1 never should get on unknown travel routes with unwanted destinations. And H3N2 is no "sorry, it's an error" substance. It can be deadly for birds and humans, as virologists know.
The subprime crisis and the fate of many broken banks are an example for poor regulations. For the financial markets, for the entire economy this may have resulted in global recession. meanwhile, failure of control and regulations for labs operating with viruses like H5N1 will have another outcome: the risk of a new global pandemic, bioterrorist attacks or millions of deaths. This is the only message, and lesson, for President Barack Obama and his team: Get things in biohazard labs under control – at home.
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