If you were in Ames, Iowa, chances are you wouldn't notice one of the most important labs in the United States for disease detection. Until recently, the National Veterinary Service Laboratories (NVSL) Ames branch was the only lab that could test for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). But now a new report issued by USDA investigators says the government's main lab, located in Ames, Iowa, is not secure enough to store dangerous pathogens.
And it's really not a wonder. The small lab is located in a strip mall on the outskirts of Ames. Security points are minimal compared to some labs and the building is next door to commercial shops.
According to a Reuters article, a 27-page report identifies improvements made in security and recordkeeping since the first investigation in March 2002. But investigators found that "scientists and students were allowed 'unlimited access' to the laboratory without the USDA requiring background checks," the article says.
In the past few weeks USDA has approved a few labs and rapid tests. There are now seven state approved laboratories; they are located in California, Colorado, Texas, Wisconsin, Georgia, New York and Washington state. California-based Bio- Rad Laboratories, Inc. and IDEXX Laboratories, Inc. rapid tests have been approved to help in the increased surveillance measures.
The USDA is currently trying to relocate the facility, which is now located in a strip mall. Congress has been asked for $178 million in fiscal year 2005 to complete the final stages of the new National Centers for Animal Health.