The COVID pandemic has led to a boom in the construction of biotech laboratories that study deadly viruses, according to the Daily Mail. And this despite the fact that the version of the laboratory origin of the coronavirus was considered as one of the most probable.
All biochemical laboratories according to the level of biological safety (Biosafety level, BSL) are divided into several types. In laboratories at the lowest biosafety level, BSL-1, handwashing and basic protective equipment are sufficient. BSL-3 and BSL-4 study the most dangerous viruses. BSL-3 uses a closed ventilated space to handle pathogen-contaminated materials. Such laboratories also have self-closing doors, sealed windows, floors and walls, and filtered ventilation systems. The BSL-4 type laboratory is located in a separate part of the building, has its own specialized air supply system, employees wear airtight full-body suits with air supply, change clothes before entering and take a shower before leaving. According to Health Canada, until 1999, the world was 190 deaths have been reported from pathogens that infected people in laboratories.
Since 2020, when the pandemic began, more than 40 BSL-3 and BSL-4 certified facilities have been built or are under construction around the world. The reason for this boom is that many countries have been caught off guard by the outbreak, and their governments intend to prepare for the next pandemic by studying dangerous pathogens. Many of these laboratories are experimenting with animal viruses in search of treatments and vaccines that could be used in a future outbreak.
But there is a danger that the risk of pandemics will only increase due to these experiments - some experts are still confident that it was the laboratory leak of the virus that caused covid. According to the official version, the virus began to spread from a food market in Wuhan, which is located at a distance of 13 km from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The biological laboratory that operates there belongs to the highest level of security, as it studies dangerous bat coronaviruses. After the start of an international investigation, employees of the Wuhan laboratory erased the most important databases from computers, which made it impossible to study the connection between the institute and the pandemic.
It is known that in the United States, one more will be added to the 12 already existing biosecurity laboratories of the highest level. India aims to introduce 18 new BSL-3 and BSL-4 laboratories, in addition to establishing four new national institutes of virology, two of which will deal with BSL-4 pathogens. Russia announced the construction of 15 BSL-4 laboratories. Kazakhstan, the Philippines and Singapore announced their first maximum biosafety laboratories.
Now there are 63 BSL-4 laboratories in the world - this is a relatively small number. They do high-risk research, including enhancement-of-function research, in which scientists modify pathogens to become more lethal. It is in such laboratories that the most dangerous diseases like Ebola are studied.
The problem is that many of the pathogens that BSL-4 labs work on could become bioterrorist weapons if they fall into the wrong hands. The very arrangement of such laboratories significantly reduces the risk of leakage, but does not exclude it. “There are quite a few lab infections that lab workers pick up. Most of them are not dangerous, but the fact is always a source of concern, says Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia. “Among what people produce, there are things that can cause significant harm if they are released.” According to the expert, the emergence of new laboratories is absolutely necessary, but their potential danger cannot be ruled out: “If I were in charge of working in India, where there were problems in the early stages of the covid outbreak due to lack of access to BSL-4 laboratories, I would I'm pretty damn sure I want to build labs like this in case there's another outbreak. But would I be concerned if people started using these labs for research that could ultimately be harmful? Of course."