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India Finishing Work on High-Security Biolab

India's National Institute of Virology has almost finished work on the nation's first Biosafety Level 4 laboratory, which would conduct research on some of the world's most highly contagious and lethal pathogens, the Indian Express reported on Tuesday (see GSN, Dec. 17, 2010).

The BSL-4 laboratory, located at the NIV campus in Pashan, is expected be operational no later than November. The laboratory is being built to the highest biosafety standards. Biosafety Level 4 laboratories are authorized to handle diseases for which there are no known cures, such as the Ebola and Marburg viruses. There are reportedly fewer than 40 such facilities on the planet (see GSN, Sept. 8, 2010).

"This laboratory will not just be the first in the country but the only one in entire Southeast Asia," NIV Director A.C. Mishra said.

Seven NIV researchers received instruction in the United States on how to safely manage a Biosafety Level 4 institution.

Mishra said multiple filter systems have been designed for the laboratory to prevent the escape of any disease material. The laboratory was designed with hermetic walls. All water and air that exits the facility is to be scanned for pathogen contamination. Samples of Ebola, anthrax and other diseases would be kept under strict security and site would be surrounded by an electrified fence.

Additionally, 12 protective suits, each with a personal oxygen line, have been shipped from Italy for use by laboratory scientists.

"Virologists are always the first responders in case of any outbreak. Viruses can be used as a bioterrorism agent and the BSL-4 laboratory has been designed in such a way that it can detect the virus and counter any bioterror attack," Mishra said (Anuradha Mascarenhas, Indian Express, Aug. 2).

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