Dr. Gregory Parham, administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

Federal Panel Selects Tier 1 Agents

Anthrax, Ebola, the Marburg virus, and botulinum toxin are among 11 microorganisms that may cause researchers working with them to be subject to higher security standards.

The Federal Experts Security Advisory Panel (FESAP) was asked to choose a subset of Select Agent List agents “that presents the greatest risk of deliberate misuse with most significant potential for mass casualties or devastating effects to the economy, critical infrastructure, or public confidence.” The panel has now completed its report, choosing 11 microorganisms. Researchers working with them would be subjected to greater security standards, including increased screening and monitoring, if the administration accepts the recommendations.

FESAP was created in July 2010 by an executive order from President Obama. A letter from Dr. George Korch of HHS and Dr. Gregory Parham, FESAP co-chairs, asks colleagues to send comments to the FESAP staff by visiting http://www.phe.gov/Preparedness/legal/boards/fesap/. Parham is administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

The panel was charged with making recommendations for biosecurity measures for the national Select Agent Program. FESAP has been chartered to remain active through 2014 and will continue to advise the program. All 82 biological select agents and toxins were scored against 20 criteria, with agents chosen for Tier 1 if they have the ability to produce a mass casualty event or devastating effects to the economy, communicability, low infectious dose, and a history of or current interest in weaponization based on threat reporting. The criteria for recommending removal of agents from the Select Agent list were low potential for causing mortality, endemicity in the United States (animal pathogens only), and difficulty in producing quantities necessary for a high consequence event, according to the report.

The panel recommended that these agents comprise the list of Tier 1 agents:

  • Bacillus anthracis
  • Burkholderia mallei
  • Burkholderia pseudomallei
  • Ebola virus
  • Foot-and-mouth disease virus
  • Francisella tularensis
  • Marburg virus
  • Variola major virus
  • Variola minor virus
  • Yersinia pestis
  • botulinum neurotoxin and botulinum toxin-producing species of Clostridium botulinum

Agents recommended for removal from the current Select Agent list include:

  • Eastern Equine encephalitis virus, South American genotypes (all other genotypes and subtypes should remain on the list, the panel recommended)
  • Tick-borne encephalitis viruses, European subtypes
  • Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis virus, Enzootic subtypes ID and IE
  • Bovine Spongiform Encephalitis

These also should be removed after other regulatory controls over their possession are identified and confirmed, the panel recommended:

  • Clostridium perfringens epsilon toxin
  • Conotoxin
  • Diacetoxyscirpenol
  • Shiga toxin
  • Shiga-like ribosome inactivating proteins
  • T-2 toxin

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