In her new book, ''Pandora's Gamble,'' Professor Alan Young - a former investigative reporter for USA Today and a professor at the Missouri School of Journalism lays out the :

Shocking extent of lax laboratory standards and procedures, and lack of accountability and transparency, in the United States and around the world.

In 2003 and 2004, SARS leaked from labs in China, Singapore and Taiwan so many times after its initial outbreak, which had been contained, that the World Health Organization said that if it ever came back, it would most likely be because of a lab mishap.

WHEN RESEARCHERS conceal problems, it can be because they are avoiding embarrassment and hope for the best.

In 2003, a SARS researcher in a top biosafety lab in Taiwan, in a hurry to go on a trip, got infected when he rushed to clean a spill. He traveled anyway and then became very ill.

Instead of informing the authorities, he self-quarantined. His father said the man ''wanted to die at home'' rather than bring shame to his lab and his country. The incident came to light only after the desperate father threatened to kill himself unless his son sought medical help.

In 2022, a lab worker conducting research on the new coronavirus in Taiwan exposed 110 to Covid after she got infected when she removed her mask improperly - the blunder wasn't discovered until later, when she tested positive.

Back in 2003 her supervisor had been infected with SARS in a lab.

SARS magazine noted that this was ''a grim reminder, experts say, that the very researchers fighting SARS could unleash its next global outbreak.''

Of course, a large majority of lab research happens without such mishaps. And scientific research is how we study dangerous pathogens. And obviously, we've had outbreaks and pandemics even before we got the ability to work with pathogens in labs.

But the abilities scientists have developed in the past few decades have increased the threat. In 2012, when some scientists published a paper titled 

''Reconstruction of the 1918 Influenza Virus : Unexpected Rewards From the Past,'' about a strain of influenza that had killed tens of millions around the world, other scientists argued that any knowledge gained wasn't worth the risk or could be obtained more safely.

Biosafety also involves field research and animals at the labs. Scientists studying animals in the wild can carry back pathogens to their lab and the densely populated areas where they can be situated.

A scientist at the Wuhan C.D.C., a few hundred yards from the market where the first known big outbreak of the Covid pandemic was detected in December 2019, was filmed in a video released that month about his field research on bats.

The video showed him conducting field work without full protective gear, even though he noted in the video that ''it is while discovering new viruses that we are most at risk of infection.''

And if scientists bring the animals themselves back to the labs, there can be even more danger.

Scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology reportedly kept colonies of live bats to study the virus they carry. Those colonies could be a source of cross infection of people.

Cities are a particular danger. Spillovers, when a novel animal virus infects a human, are common; however, pandemics are rare. New viruses can't trigger pandemic unless they also evolve to spread effectively from one human to another.

Rural communities do not provide the same density and population to facilitate that as cities do. [That's also why urban wet markets are dangerous].

Professor Young's book raises much needed alarm about the dangers of ignoring the need to do things right. The stakes are very high. The World should take notice.

Lab safety failures have been a continual danger, with too little being done.

The Publishing continues. The World Students Society thanks author Zaynep Tufekci.


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