Biological Minefields


A recent article in the published in the Economist unraveled a little known fact about laboratory conditions in developing countries especially Africa. Most labs studying some of the most dangerous infectious diseases on the planet such as Marburg & Ebola hemorrhagic fever are housed in extremely unsafe and unprotected areas.

For e.g.

"A Kenyan research lab housing anthrax, Ebola and Marburg backs onto a slum and has low, easily scaled cement walls."

In Africa and other developing countries, the lab equipment is antiquated and therefore large samples of infectious material is handled and stored. Without adequate protective measures, this may cause accidents leading to infectious outbreaks.


Furthermore, there is the possibility that these bacteria and viruses may be used as weapons in bioterrorism. Handling these dangerous agents is extremely tricky and it is hard to convert them into weapons.

"Pathogens are easier to package than nuclear materials. But “weaponising” them is still difficult."

Therefore, the possibility that these agents will be used for biologic warfare is remote - at the moment!


The Economist: A bug's life: How safe are health laboratories in developing countries?