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Japan lab to handle deadliest viruses for first time

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Thank goodness Canada developed a vaccine

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Is it built on a fault line, and staffed by incompetents ? Shudder to think, what would happen if the people in charge are anything like Tepco.

6 ( +14 / -8 )

"a Tokyo suburb" is not identified for obvious security reasons. Just look for a suburb with a sudden collapse of land prices.

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

Thank you Alistair, took the words right out of my mouth!

So with the next big quake we'll not only have a nuke, but also a biohazard catastrophe on hand. Straight out of a video game...

0 ( +6 / -6 )

"a Tokyo suburb" is not identified for obvious security reasons. Just look for a suburb with a sudden collapse of land prices

Do much reading of entire articles before making comments like this? Read below.

.The decision to boost it to the highest biosafety level came as Health Minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki signed an agreement with the mayor of the Musashimurayama suburb on Monday.

1 ( +7 / -6 )

“Finally, Japan has caught up with other developed nations,” menacingly laughed Jiro Yasuda, a virology professor at Nagasaki University.

errrr.....I saw this movie once I think...

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Just hope the standard of scientist is above that of the Obokata's oh Japan.

1 ( +7 / -6 )

No thank you, one Tepco is enough.

4 ( +10 / -6 )

Why don't they put the lab up in one of the radiated zones near the Fukushima nuclear plant?

0 ( +6 / -6 )

"Finally, Japan has caught up with other developed nations” is that the point? Oh dear! (shakes head)

3 ( +8 / -5 )

5 years ago I would be like. Of course, who other than Japan, one of the most advanced countries in the world. But now.....im not so sure this is a good idea.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Oh great! I work in Musashimurayana!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

"Oh great! I work in Musashimurayana!"

Oh well, nice knowing yah!

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Of equal concern is the fact that the laboratory facilities are already almost 35 years old--I hope they've checked all the rubber seals around their doors and windows!

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Where is this place? I know it is Tokyo but I would like to know where

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@gogogo I am not sure, but most probably around Kunitachi and Hachioji.

I don't think that is some thing to be concerned though.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Everyone want to make vaccine but the main obstacle to medication is affordability and distribution after pass clinical test.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I would like to think Japan can handle this but my brain tells me its NOT a good idea far too many BAD precedents, man made & by mother nature!

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Has anyone ever seen a video of grocery store shelves taken during and after an earthquake? Are this will be a lab full of the world's deadliest viruses?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

NOT a good idea! Japan is where we always read about people trusted with important information or things who forget them on the train or in the back seat of a car and it was stolen, etc. The intro to the fourth bio-hazard movie shows the zombie apocalypse starting in Tokyo. A prediction, perhaps? :)

0 ( +5 / -5 )

Sorry, in my post, "Are this will be" should be, "And this will be...'

Where is this place? I know it is Tokyo but I would like to know where

In the article it says they're making an agreement with Musashimurayama suburb, so...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I don't deny the importance of having a research lab for deadly viruses, but couldn't they have built it on a desert island like the CDC lab in the US?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Why do we even need a place like this in Tokyo, why not move it to some remote place?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Virus are stored inside air tight container (unbreakable too) at -80C deep freezer inside a freezer room which will be in a secured room. Also active virus culture are done inside a incubator, inside a secure room. In general earthquake will hardly cause virus outbreak however can't say about human error. Human error will more likely cause virus outbreak (ex. remember recently pentagon mailed active Anthrax virus to laboratories)

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

In_japan: exactly! And human error happens all the time. These idiots are just asking for it by putting this deadly virus lab smack in the middle of the word's most populous city. It's an extremely stupid idea.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Why don't they put the lab up in one of the radiated zones near the Fukushima nuclear plant?

That will be the worst idea. You don't want deadly virus to mutate by radiation.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

As a somebody who actually knows a number of leading Japanese researchers and is also abreast of some of the research being done, I think this is a great development. Then again, I question Tokyo as the location. Something like this would be better out Tsukuba or up in Tohoku.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

what has happened to the oppostition? or is the gov't just going to do what it wants to do?

japan has the highest standards for constructing quake resistant buildings. i worry more about human error than anything else.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

what has happened to the oppostition? or is the gov't just going to do what it wants to do?

Watch much news recently? The government doing what it wants......short answer....yes, opposition....after the fact.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Fortunately, the US could use its vast experience to teach Japan all about cybersecurity:

<http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/12/25/health/cdc-ebola-error-in-lab-may-have-exposed-technician-to-virus.html?referrer=

Meanwhile, let's practice: There is no problem/ It poses no risk/ everything is under control/no '_ ' has been released/...

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

:Musashimurayama" "probably around Kunitachi and Hachioji"

hmmm in the area near Yokota Air Base....

So if they eff up--the base can help contain it HOPEFULLY....

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Quite funny, actually. Japanese culture and dangerous technology don't go along well together, as whenever there is a problem, no one wants to be the person who must take reponsibility for the situation and make the decisions necessary to solve it. Fukushima is a glaring example, but many people don't know that Japan had the worst record for nuclear-related miahaps prior to the Fukushima disaster.

Worse, though there is a lot of opposition to nuclear weaopns and power, there is little knowledge or opposition to dangerous biological and chemical compounds, and that some of these are classified in military studies as more dangerous than nuclear weapons. When Clinton and Bush were talking about Saddam's WMD program, they knew the terrible potential of these weapons, most people don't. Residues from these compounds can remain dangerous for even longer than nuclear fallout.

Sorry to say, but allowing Japan to work with such things is akin to letting a teenager play with a loaded gun. In an American or European lab, anyone can shut down the facility at the push of a button. In Japan one would probably need to ask permission to get permission just to know the location of the button, and the granter would have to ask permission to give permissiion, and should an accident or problem occur, by the time it was figured out who was responsible to ask and grant permission, the roof would be falling on their heads.

If Japan wants to work with these agents, rather than bringing them here, Japanese scientists should study them in Los Alamos, or Fort Detrick, where people have been doing such work for decades.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Does people really become irrational so easily when the word ”virus" or "ebola" is used? What kind of image comes when a biological laboratory is mentioned? racks full of flying syringes or missiles with thousand of spray cans really to make clouds of viruses? other than that I really don't see how an earthquake could possibly become a risk for widespread contagion. You would need the earthquake to go, open all the fridges, then open the racks of boxes, then open the boxes, unscrew the tubes and get the virus containing liquid quickly in contact with susceptible subjects before the air and room temperature kills the pathogens. Simply speaking there is no credible situation where an earthquake would spread disease from even a minimally maintained biosafety laboratory, a biological agent and a radioactive agent are completely different risks.

@Stephen Knight There is a reason labs are classified in "biosafety levels" and not in "danger levels". That is because the labs (building, installations, machines, etc.) have to pass continuous examination about their safety (and thinking about terrorism also about their security), Its not about having a dangerous pathogen and then getting a place to work with it, Its about getting a place with enough safety to bring dangerous pathogens without increasing the risk. The building is not certified for life as a BSL4, it can be build so it can be used as a BSL4 but only after proper examinations are done and repeated every certain time.

i worry more about human error than anything else.

In that case the place of the laboratory should not be one of the worries, a human error would mean more likely a laboratory contagion, then you would have a typical outbreak situation where the people infected could be working in a deserted island but still the secondary infections would happen because people travel and get in contact with others everyday until they become symptomatic. Other than that the only possibility is a complete fail of the whole system with dozens of people not doing their jobs at all. Japan have several BSL3 laboratories working since decades ago and any kind of incompetence at the levels demonstrated at Fukushima would mean that a couple of outbreaks had happened every year and a few hundred doctors, scientists, social workers, etc. are in a huge conspiracy to keep them a secret. Its just not believable.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Quite funny, actually. Japanese culture and dangerous technology don't go along well togethe

What?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Why do you people worry about this? Most of the things they will do research on can't live in the atmosphere for more than several minutes, the only concerns is theft of material, absolutely no concern to anyone living nearby.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I really don't see how an earthquake could possibly become a risk for widespread contagion

Japan earned the dubious honor of having the most mishaps and mistakes at it's nuclear power plants long before the 3-11 earthquake. These mishaps were not caused by disasters, but by human errors. Despite knowing the inherent risks of nuclear energy, and that incredible care must be taken, these mishaps still occurred. These errors occur in systems where the head doesn't know what the tail is doing (because everything in Japan is compartmentalized) and when the tail knocks something over, only the head has the authority to tell it what to do. But the tail cannot ask the head directly, it must go through a chain of command (bureaucrats), and if one of the links in this chain is in Hawaii playing golf, good luck at solving the problem.

When the batteries to the backup pumps in Fukushima stopped working, the engineers wanted to get more batteries from auto and truck parts stores. But the stores were already closed for the day, and no one could figure who to call to open the stores and get the batteries. As a result, no batteries could be procured, and the rest is history. In any other country the police would have been sent to break down the door and get the batteries without bothering to ring the bell first.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

@sangetsu03

Japan earned the dubious honor of having the most mishaps and mistakes at it's nuclear power plants long before the 3-11 earthquake. These mishaps were not caused by disasters, but by human errors.

That is why I explained that a radioactive and a biological agent are two completely different things when talking about risk. Radioactive material contaminate unless you are doing something constantly to isolate and contain them. On the other hand biological material become inactivated and die unless you are doing something constantly to propagate and maintain them. The chain of mistakes that you mention would be enough in a BSL4 lab to lose all the samples forever and probably lay waste to millions of yen and years of specialized work, but would do nothing to propagate pathological agents. A simple example would be burning both, radioisotopes in fire is a disaster, bacteria in fire is a blessing.

And also again, Japan have many BSL3 labs working with very dangerous pathogens already (SARS, West Nile Virus, Rabies, etc.) And of course trouble must have happened in the decades that they have been in place, any kind of incompetence that would make human error something even remotely common would mean outbreaks and cases every year, unless you believe that those outbreaks has been hidden it is a very strong proof that the level of biosafety in Japan is not as low as people seems to believe.

If you are curious you can search for the localization of BSL4 labs in the world, in many places you would be surprised to see only a few meters separating the laboratory building from residential zones. That is the purpose of BSL

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The intro to the fourth bio-hazard movie shows the zombie apocalypse starting in Tokyo. A prediction, perhaps? :)

I don't know about that........but the smart-phone zombie version is well under way. In any case, I disagree with the decision to put the lab in the middle of Tokyo. This kind of research is best done away from urban areas

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

You would need the earthquake to go, open all the fridges, then open the racks of boxes, then open the boxes, unscrew the tubes ...

Or, the second floor could just collapse on the first floor, and all of the fridges and vials would be open. It would be more likely, though, that some space cadet would mislabel or mishandle a live virus. After years of operation, people make mistakes in any system.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Or, the second floor could just collapse on the first floor

Not likely.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Why in Japan? Why not some at some underground facility in some third world country, run by a tin pot dictatorship that would gladly accept all of the world's filth in exchange for support? I would've imagined Japan was capable of bringing about such outsourcing agreements overseas with its global powerhouse status, indicated by membership in the G7.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

This kind of research is best done away from urban areas.

Actually the biosafety and biosecurity experts think exactly the opposite, any kind of trouble is best resolved with the help of the whole infrastructure of a city, there is more risk for people in the city when the high biosafety level facilities are isolated because you are not talking about an immobile danger but a biological agent.

Or, the second floor could just collapse on the first floor, and all of the fridges and vials would be open.

Even if the biosafety regulations did not specify exactly what can be located above (and below, and at the sides) a BSL4 lab you are talking about a magical eartquake that would fall perfectly horizontally crushing homogeneously a space full with machines like centrifuges made of titanium so there would be absolutely no space for the small tubes to fall. And even on that magic earthquake case you would get samples oozing inside their own absorbent boxes inside racks inside freezers, quickly going into room temperature inactivating the whole thing because your earthquake still does not provide a susceptible organism to be infected nor the way for the pathogens to go inside of that organisms.

It would be more likely, though, that some space cadet would mislabel or mishandle a live virus.

That is of course taken into account so there is no problem if it happens, principally because in principle nothing goes out of a BSL4 lab without boiling the hell out of it at high pressure or dissolving it on Chlorine or Iodine. Everything inside (from the walls to the pens used to record things) is considered contaminated by the worst thing that have ever been inside (even after years of not having it there and constant disinfection procedures) so It would not matter if the tube says "Vitamins" or "Cure of cancer" it would still be boiled out in an autoclave machine before going out

After years of operation, people make mistakes in any system.

And that is of course part of what BSL4 takes care of, controls over controls and everyone assuming everyone else is an idiot. I don't really know if people really work on places where an inspection is about asking someone if he is doing a good job and cheking a box when he says yes, but on biosafety you don't trust anybody, people have to go together to catch mistakes, supervisors have to see evidence of everything that is done, inspectors check that everything written correspond with reality and a single misplaced tube (even inside the same box) will mean days or even weeks of a researcher doing nothing but a full inventory together with a biosafety inspector. The American Anthrax trouble is such a big scandal because it actually means that literally dozens of people were not doing their jobs, shows a total disregard of basic biosafety rules from everybody involved. And if you really want to believe that this kind of situation is common in Japan then why would the scientist refrain from working on BSL4 pathogens in a BSL3 lab? I mean, you already consider everybody a hopeless and corrupted inept.

Why in Japan? Why not some at some underground facility in some third world country, run by a tin pot dictatorship that would gladly accept all of the world's filth in exchange for support?

It may be that my sarcasm detector is broken but do you seriously suggest that it would be good to give lethal pathogens in huge quantities as well as the technology to work with them to a dictator that is begging for money?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Radioactive material contaminate unless you are doing something constantly to isolate and contain them

And "deadly viruses" do not contaminate? They do not require isolation and containment?

I spent some time at the Army's chemical weapons unit at Fort McClellan, and I have been to the National Laboratories in Los Alamos, and their guidelines for chemical and biological agents are, if anything, more stringent than those used in nuclear labs.

The weakest link in these systems is the human link, and the organization and administration of this link. A car is only as safe as the person who drives it, regardless of the safety features it contains. Time and time again we have seen the cultural tendencies imbedded in Japanese staff override their ability to make critical decisions in a timely manner. Japanese are terrified of making mistakes, and this aversion causes tow potential problems; first, trying to cover up mistakes rather than report them, and second, not making a decision to solve the problem as the risk of making the wrong decision seems worse than making no decision at all.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

And "deadly viruses" do not contaminate? They do not require isolation and containment?

Not for long, viruses will die quickly and completely if you don't do anything to help them "live". Isolation and containment come into the picture when you are investing resources in keeping the viruses viable (in delicate cell cultures or deep freezers for example) Radioisotopes don't need any care, leave a brick of uranium and it will spread radiation by itself without significantly losing danger no matter how much you wait.

IF you are talking about biological weapons then that fear may be better justified, but at least for Japan that is of course not the case.

I spent some time at the Army's chemical weapons unit at Fort McClellan, and I have been to the National Laboratories in Los Alamos, and their guidelines for chemical and biological agents are, if anything, more stringent than those used in nuclear labs.

Looking at how the army treated the Anthrax samples that leaves me extremely worried about what are they doing in nuclear labs, they got into trouble because a complete disregard of even minimum protocol on biological samples. I just hope that weaponized pathogens ("agents" being a completely different thing from laboratory samples) were treated with more care

Time and time again we have seen the cultural tendencies imbedded in Japanese staff override their ability to make critical decisions in a timely manner.

And again in case of disaster that would mean total loss of samples, resources and years of work but not an outbreak. The only realistic case where a single human error can cause widespread contagion is hiding a self exposure, and in that case it does not matter where it happens because the person becoming a vector for spread will do so in their contact with other people, at that time the BSL4 actually becomes the safest place to be with people getting disinfecting showers, masks and gloves all the time.

and this aversion causes tow potential problems; first, trying to cover up mistakes rather than report them, and second, not making a decision to solve the problem as the risk of making the wrong decision seems worse than making no decision at all.

And that is why again rules and regulations are made so wrong decisions are spotted efficiently. For a simple human error to cause a dangerous outbreak it really need everybody else to simplly stop doing their jobs, at all.

Supervisors, inspectors, directors, technicians, etc. got specific training to constantly check each others work and make sure that there is nothing fishy. A researcher has to spend more than 6 months just training with somebody else before being allowed to work inside a BSL4 by proving that he not only knows how to work perfectly fine but also notice when somebody else is not.

If you want to believe that everybody is so inept and corrupted by their "cultural tendencies" then you should be urging for the BSL4 to be put in working order as soon as possible because that will actually reduce the risk. After all, inside of those "wrong decisions" that you think are so common is included the decision to work on dangerous pathogens even in facilities not adapted to provide proper biosafety.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Magnus Roe AUG. 05, 2015 - 04:14PM JST Why do you people worry about this? Most of the things they will do research on can't live in the atmosphere for more than several minutes, the only concerns is theft of material, absolutely no concern to anyone living nearby.

Because without snidely denigrating any and all Japanese people as unable to do complicated, dangerous work, we might start examining our own inadequacies. And that would never do. Keep in mind, this is the community whose expert solution to the Fukushima meltdown was to fly cargo planes to Hokkaido, fill them up with snow and just air drop them on the nuclear power plant.

But seriously, anyone who thinks this is a bad idea simply because Japanese people are doing it should probably have a good long think about themselves and their biases.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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