Federal security panel names 11 pathogens that pose the greatest risk for research

June 17, 2011 | Source: Science Insider

To help lower the “insider risk” of deadly pathogens being used as terrorist weapons, the Federal Experts Security Advisory Panel has named 11 pathogens as “Tier 1″ threats, a new biosecurity category higher than all other categories.

Pathogens named in the list include anthrax, Ebola, Variola major and Variola minor (the two viruses that cause small pox), the Marburg virus (causes foot and mouth disease), and bacterial strains that produce the botulinum neurotoxin.

Increased background restrictions on agents working with Tier 1 pathogens are also recommended. This includes mental health background checks, credit statements, financial records, and behavioral assessment tools. The panel also recommends that foreign nationals be screened against terrorist databases on an ongoing basis rather than just once every five years.

The panel recommends dropping 19 pathogens and six toxins from a longer list of 82 agents. The goal behind this move is to increase restrictions on the most dangerous pathogens while loosening burdensome restrictions on toxins and pathogens that aren’t real threats.