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Yesterday     2003     2002     2001     2000     1999

Review Panel on new SARS case and biosafety

An 11-member Review Panel, comprising local and external experts, was tasked by the Ministry of Health to review (a) epidemiologic data of the recent SARS case and (b) the biosafety requirements and practices at Singapore's BSL3 laboratories. It was led by Dr Antony Della-Porta, a WHO biosafety expert.

The Panel has completed its investigation and submitted its Report to the Ministry.

Epidemiologic Investigation

From the results of its investigations, the Panel has concluded that the patient most likely acquired the infection in the Environmental Health Institute (EHI) laboratory where he had worked.

Inappropriate laboratory procedures and a cross contamination of West Nile virus samples with SARS coronavirus in the laboratory led to the infection of the doctoral student. No evidence could be found of any other source of infection.

The Panel's conclusion is further supported by the results of the genome sequencings on the laboratory strain of SARS coronavirus and that of the patient's. Both genome sequences were found to be closely related.

The Panel also established that there is no evidence of secondary transmission and this is an isolated case of SARS.

Biosafety Standards

The Panel also reviewed the three existing BSL3 laboratories and found a large range of biosafety structures and practices.

The Panel recommended that we take the opportunity to put in place a national legislative framework for ensuring international standards in bio-safety in our laboratories. Where gaps in biosafety standards were identified, the Panel has made specific recommendations to rectify them. The details are in their Report.

In particular, the Panel highlighted the need for laboratory certification covering both structural integrity and operating procedures. A regular audit process should also be put in place for all BSL3 facilities. Competency based training in biological safety should also be adopted and all personnel involved in BSL3 facilities be properly trained.

Follow Up

The Ministry thanks the Panel for their thorough investigation and comprehensive recommendations. The Ministry will work with the relevant agencies to follow-up on the recommendations.

This case of accidental laboratory contamination has provided us with the opportunity to improve our laboratory practices and to raise our biosafety standards in all our laboratories.
The full report of the Panel is available on MOH website at

ENV/NEA Statement on Review Panel's Report

Source: Ministry of Health Press Release 23 Sep 2003



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New Works on Paper 2003 - exhibition by Yeo Shih Yun  26 Sep - 12 Nov 2003

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25 September 2003

Singapore Time