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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