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Improving the Select Agent Program

Gigi Kwik Gronvall
Date posted:
October 29, 2008
Publication type:

Bull At Sci October 29, 2008

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Immediately following the 2001 anthrax attacks, U.S. officials didn't know how many U.S. research laboratories held stocks of Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of anthrax disease. And they didn't know how many researchers within those labs that did have stocks had ready access to the strains. This complicated the investigation of the source of the material used in the attacks. In the seven intervening years, U.S. officials have improved this situation. As a consequence of an expanded Select Agent Program, they now monitor the possession and transfer of more than 70 viruses, bacteria, toxins, and rickettsia (including anthrax) that could theoretically be processed into bioweapons, in all U.S. government, academic, and private laboratories. By law, only individuals cleared by the Department of Justice have access to these "select" biological agents.

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