Dugway Proving Ground was among 9 biodefense research labs temporarily shut down after months of investigation revealed safety concerns, including live anthrax spores outside their containment area. Dugway has been under scrutiny recently for issues regarding the handling of deadly airborne pathogens.
Bernie Youngblood, founder and president of Priorclave North America, is concerned these lapses aren’t getting the public attention they deserve. “Not a lot of people will recall that the last recorded smallpox death in the world wasn’t some 19th century epidemic or Cold War era germ warfare experiment run amok: It was a lab tech in Birmingham, England in 1978, and she got sick precisely because of this sort of procedural problem. The public uproar led to substantial changes to both lab methods and how sterilizers themselves are built and operated, and we’re all safer for it. Priorclave—which is a UK-based company—was on the cutting edge of those improvements, and lab safety has been a top priority for Priorclave ever since.”
Youngblood sees the Dugway lapse as indicative of an ongoing problem with how pathogenic hazards are handled in the U.S., and it starts with education: “The fact is, here in the U.S. we just do not have a solid ‘best practices’ approach to teaching the safe and proper operation of lab autoclaves,” he observed. “We don’t teach the principles of cycle validation. In many programs, students have very limited hands-on experience operating modern research autoclaves–sometimes owing to liability concerns, sometimes because the autoclaves they have are overcomplicated medical-grade units poorly suited to a teaching environment, and sometimes because there simply aren’t enough properly functioning autoclaves installed in the facility.”
Of course, university is where training should begin and Priorclave is working to stem the tide of autoclave-shy researchers. We offer training and support for the lifetime of our units, which are optimized for safe, easy, reliable operation. We want our customers to use their autoclaves with confidence in both results and safety.
[photo credit: UC Davis College of Engineering, CC BY 2.0]