Australia Withholds Location of New Biodefense Lab

Global Security Newswire Staff
Jan. 17, 2014, 8:04 a.m.

Aus­tralia is re­fus­ing to dis­close the sit­ing of a new urb­an biode­fense labor­at­ory over fears of a tar­geted strike, the Ad­elaide Ad­vert­iser re­ports.

The “Phys­ic­al Con­tain­ment Level 3” com­plex, in op­er­a­tion as of this week, is the highest-se­cur­ity dis­ease re­search fa­cil­ity in the state of South Aus­tralia, ac­cord­ing to the news­pa­per.

The site is ex­pec­ted to con­duct as­sess­ments tied to “risk group 3” patho­gens, said Janice Fletch­er, the state’s act­ing patho­logy dir­ect­or. That in­cludes bio­lo­gic­al threats such as tuber­cu­los­is and Q fever.

“The lab will pro­cess around 9,000 TB samples per year,” Fletch­er said. “[It] also has the cap­ab­il­ity to test for some oth­er or­gan­isms, in­clud­ing a bi­o­ter­ror­ism test­ing cap­ab­il­ity.”

A re­cently en­acted state health law helped es­tab­lish the ra­tionale for the new My­co­bac­teri­um Ref­er­ence Labor­at­ory, which is in­ten­ded to sup­port re­sponses to the most ser­i­ous dis­ease events the re­gion may face.

State med­ic­al of­fi­cials “re­cog­nized that we did not have a suit­ably rated con­tain­ment labor­at­ory for deal­ing with high-risk mi­croor­gan­isms,” South Aus­tralia Health Min­is­ter Jack Snelling said. He said the new labor­at­ory can “op­er­ate at — or above — the level of lead­ing labor­at­or­ies in oth­er states.”

In the past, au­thor­it­ies have had to send po­ten­tial bio­lo­gic­al-threat ma­ter­i­als to oth­er Aus­trali­an states for as­sess­ment, Snelling ad­ded.

“We have to be pre­pared to re­spond quickly to test and find solu­tions to any­thing from nat­ur­ally oc­cur­ring su­per­bugs to the event of a bioat­tack,” he said.

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