The common understanding of biosafety is derived from the practical guidance issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) on techniques for use in laboratories. WHO considers biosafety to be "the containment principles, technologies and practices that are implemented to prevent unintentional exposure to pathogens and toxins, or their accidental release.” Biosecurity on the other hand is most commonly used to refer to mechanisms to establish and maintain the security and oversight of pathogenic microorganisms, toxins and relevant resources. In brief, biosafety protects people from germs while biosecurity protects germs from people (United Nations Office in Geneva [UNOG], 2015).
One of the major challenges in biosafety and biosecurity is the increasing availability and accessibility of potentially harmful technology. Biomedical advances and the globalization of scientific and technical expertise have made it possible to greatly improve public health. However, there is also the risk that advances can lead to make biological weapons (McLellan, 2009). This is referred to as the dual-use concept where a pathogen can be used for both beneficial and harmful applications.
The proliferation of high biosafety level laboratories in both academic and industry settings has many experts worried about availability of targets for those that might be interested in stealing dangerous pathogens. Emerging and re-emerging disease is also a serious biosecurity concern. In particular, the medical technology/medical laboratory science profession is a central focus to this concern because the handling of such pathogens is within the scope of the practice of the profession in the areas of academics, research and clinical practice. Several incidents had already occurred in the past that gives evidence to the potential of this threat. In particular, in 1996, a laboratory technician from the US deliberately infected co-workers using bacterial strains from the clinical laboratory (Katzman, 2000). More recently, in 2003, a professor from Texas Tech University was arrested for the illegal transport of bubonic plague samples derived from the research laboratory of the university (Mangels, 2006). In this regard, there is a need to provide support to the development and use of appropriate training and competency development programs and associated materials to practitioners and their respective institutions to understand, adopt and implement biorisk management strategies and thus reinforce their respective capacities to effectively reduce biorisk in laboratory environments.
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