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Safe Travels for Zika and Other Dangerous Samples

Posted on by Blog Administrator

Barcoded medical samples in transparent tubes

As Zika virus spreads across the globe, scientists in the United States are finding ways to fight it. Currently, there are no vaccines to prevent Zika or medicines for treatment. To create better tests – including rapid tests – and develop vaccines, scientists need to conduct research with the virus in their labs.

CDC manages the permit process for researchers to bring samples of Zika virus safely from other countries into the U.S. for studies, paving the way for lifesaving discoveries.

“Samples come from all over the world,” says LCDR Meredith Pyle, a CDC microbiologist. “While so far, most samples have come from Brazil and Colombia, we have received samples from countries ranging from India to South Korea to Switzerland to Zambia.”

Sending a virus sample from one place to another has to be done safely and securely. Samples of Zika virus can be brought into the U.S. in a variety of forms, including in a tube of blood (plasma or serum), a spot of dried blood, an isolate of the virus itself that has been separated from the blood, or even a live mosquito.

How researchers get a permit

Most permit requests come from laboratories at academic and private institutions. Permits are requested through the Import Permit Program (IPP), which is managed by CDC’s Division of Select Agents and Toxins (DSAT). The program makes sure infectious germs, like Zika virus, as well as other materials that could cause disease in people will be handled appropriately after they arrive in the U.S.

“IPP helps to ensure biological agents imported into the US that could cause disease in people are tracked,” said Dr. Dan Sosin, acting director of DSAT. “We also take steps to ensure that the facilities receiving these permits have appropriate biosafety measures in place to work with the materials.”

When a researcher or institution submits an application to get an import permit for Zika virus, CDC reviews the application to make sure the facility has the appropriate biosafety measures in place to prevent the virus from accidentally being released. The program goal is to approve all Zika virus import permit applications within 24 hours for known, appropriate facilities. DSAT may also conduct an in-person inspection before issuing a permit.

Since last year, the number of permits issued for Zika virus has increased by more than eightfold. As of August 1, 2016, the program had expedited the approval of 137 Zika virus import permits this year alone.

Get more information on the Import Permit Program.

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3 comments on “Safe Travels for Zika and Other Dangerous Samples”

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

    Great initiative. Should get a diverse regions sample easier, with import procedures, simplified.

    I’m glad that the CDC manages the permit process when it comes to transporting bio hazardous substances. It’s nice to know that one of the requirements is having a biosafety measure in place to prevent accidental release of the virus. Its a bit scary knowing that infectious germs, virus, and other materials that could cause disease in people are transported in our country. I just wonder how many and what kinds are transported in our country daily. I understand the importance of testing to find cures and vaccines, but I can’t help myself to not think about the worse case scenarios that could happen during transport and testing. I just hope the measures in place are enough to prevent a nightmare waiting to happen.

    I am thrilled that the CDC requires a permit for researchers handling infectious germs. I think that monitoring and tracking hazardous substances helps ensure the careful handling required when testing a life threatening diseases such as the Zika virus.

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