Any national action plan to improve biosecurity capacity should start with an initiative to account for and secure materials that represent proliferation risks. Without an accurate national overview, it is difficult to develop and maintain appropriate measures to prevent, prepare for, detect and disrupt the misuse of biological agents, and develop effective legislation. This indicates that a national inventory is not only significant for compliance with comprehensive international frameworks that advance biological nonproliferation objectives, it also allows partnering with non-scientific stakeholders, such as policymakers, to establish biosecurity legislation and promote biorisk management.
A comprehensive record of dangerous pathogens is still not in place in many countries, which is recognised in the Joint External Evaluation reports from the World Health Organization (WHO JEE). Nations are called on to take appropriate measures to secure and account for dangerous pathogens against misuse, since it is recognised that countries often have difficulties in identifying which laboratories possess said dangerous pathogens.
Goal of the project
The goal of the project was to help governments determine which dangerous pathogens are in fact present in their country, which helps governments to assess biosecurity needs in order to strengthen preparedness and response to infectious disease outbreaks and prevent deliberate misuse of dangerous pathogens. In addition, the data from the national inventory can be used as the basis for establishing appropriate biosecurity assessments and monitoring systems. The project aimed to replicate the successes of the “Establishment of a National Inventory of Dangerous Pathogens in the Republic of Uganda” in the following countries: Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia.
This project was funded by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, Office of Cooperative Threat Reduction (ISN/CTR) through CRDF Global. CRDF Global provided a subcontract to RIVM to enable RIVM to execute the project.
An outline on how to implement a national inventory of dangerous pathogens has been described in an article: Vennis et al. (2021) Systematic approach towards establishing a National Inventory of Dangerous Pathogens, Global Health Action, 14:1, 1971866.
RIVM developed a software tool, which is a secure, centralised electronic database intended to store information collected from those institutes that handle and store dangerous pathogens. This secure software is available on request to allow countries to create and manage a national inventory.
Online consultation meetings have taken place with Tunisia and Jordan. A virtual workshop has been carried out for Jordanian stakeholders to sensitize them on how to setup a national inventory of dangerous pathogens. The project ended in May 2022.
A software tool for a national inventory of dangerous pathogens has already been implemented in Uganda by RIVM, but national-level differences required feedback and adjustment of the tool to ensure buy-in and effective deployment of solutions. The RIVM team developed an open access methodology, including a software tool, for the selected countries to set up a national inventory of dangerous pathogens according to best practices.
RIVM staff members from the Laboratory for Zoonoses and Environmental Microbiology and the Biosecurity Office were involved.