Biosafety and Biosecurity: a way forward

By

Dr. Jananie Kottahachchi MBBS, Diploma (Medical Microbiology), MD (medical Microbiology)
Senior Lecturer Grade II
Department of Microbiology
Consultant microbiologist

Biological threat from emerging infectious diseases and bioterrorism are ever increasing. It has become essential to increase awareness and preparedness for identifying and containing those agents worldwide.
Biosafety and biosecurity are very important practices in medical laboratories. Biosafety refers to the implementation of laboratory practices and procedures, specific construction features of laboratory facilities, safety equipment, and appropriate occupational health programs when handling potentially infectious microorganisms and other biological hazards. Biosecurity is establishing and maintaining the mechanisms for the security and oversight of pathogenic microorganisms, toxins and relevant resources. These measures are designed to minimise the exposure of laboratory personnel, the public, agriculture, and the environment to potentially infectious agents and other biological hazards.

Laboratory acquired infections are of high concern in recent years and may occur in clinical laboratories or research laboratories. Inadequate training increases the risk of a laboratory acquired infections. Further it may contribute to improper pathogen accounting and storage and transportation. These could give rise to the illegal acquisition of biological agents by unauthorised people.
To ensure the safety of personnel, the environment and the quality of work, the following requirements have to be met.
• Administrative controls –Good Laboratory Practices, Standard operating Procedures and accident management plans
• Engineering controls - building and laboratory design considerations
• Safety Equipment and personal protective equipment
• General lab safety procedures –physical, biohazard, fire, chemical and electrical safety
• Waste management – treatment and disposal
The WHO encourages all countries to implement the relevant principles, technologies and practices regarding biosafety and biosecurity. Laboratory Biosafety Manual compiled by WHO provides a practical guidance on the subject. Some countries have clearly conveyed a willingness to consider providing assistance on biosafety and biosecurity in the globe.

Various international, regional and professional organizations have undertaken considerable responsibilities on biosafety and biosecurity activities. American Biological Safety Association (ABSA), Asia-Pacific Biosafety Association (A-PBA), European Biological Safety Association (EBSA), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Biosafety Working Group (IBWG), International Veterinary Biosafety Workgroup (IVBWG) and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) are important in these.

A-PBA acts as a professional society for biosafety professionals in the Asia-Pacific region and was founded on 22nd February 2005. It comprises of over 800 active specialists from Asia Pacific region including Sri Lanka and beyond. Among the numerous procedures encouraging biosafety, A-PBA promotes biosafety in the Asia-Pacific region and establishes links with other biosafety associations internationally. It is an active member of the International Biosafety Working Group and contributes to the development of biosafety best practices. A-PBA organizes conferences, workshops and seminars, including the annual scientific sessions. The 13th Annual Biosafety Conference in 2018 was held in Beijing, China with the theme of “Strategizing Biosafety and Biosecurity in Today’s Advancing Technological Era and Changing Security Landscape”.

Sri Lanka is developing the concept of biosafety and biosecurity and initiated it by planning and drafting policies. There is a discussion on the need of formulating a biosafety association in the country with the multidisciplinary involvement and collaboration with A-PBA. However it is certain that all the medical and related professionals will contribute for such an effort and involve hand in hand for a long way forward.