Geneva Protocol

Opened for Signature: June 17, 1925
Entered into Force: February 8, 1928
Ratified by the US: January 22, 1975

The Geneva Protocol is also known as the Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare. It restated the prohibition on use of poisonous gases previously laid down by the Versailles and Washington treaties and added a ban on bacteriological warfare. When they ratified or acceded to the protocol, some nations — including the United Kingdom, France, and the USSR — declared that it would cease to be binding on them if their enemies, or the allies of their enemies, failed to respect the prohibitions of the protocol. The American position is that the protocol does not apply to the use in war of riot-control agents and herbicides.

Global Health – U.S. Agencies Support Programs to Build Overseas Capacity for Infectious Disease Surveillance

The rapid spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003 shows that disease outbreaks pose a threat beyond the borders of the country where they originate. Over the past decade, the United States has initiated a broad effort to ensure that countries can detect any disease outbreaks that may constitute a public health emergency of international concern. Three U.S. agencies–the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Department of Defense (DOD)–support programs aimed at building this broader capacity to detect a variety of infectious diseases. This report describes (1) the obligations, goals, and activities of these programs and (2) the U.S. agencies’ monitoring of the programs’ progress. To address these objectives, GAO reviewed budgets and other funding documents, examined strategic plans and program monitoring and progress reports, and interviewed U.S. agency officials. GAO did not review capacity-building efforts in programs that focus on specific diseases, namely polio, tuberculosis, malaria, avian influenza, or HIV/AIDS. GAO is not making any recommendations. The U.S. agencies whose programs we describe reviewed a draft of this report and generally concurred with our findings. They also provided technical comments, which we incorporated as appropriate.

U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO)
Publish Date:
September 2007

Global Health Security: Closing Gaps in Responding to Infectious Disease Emergencies

“In this article, we describe two important gaps in international frameworks that govern the response to global public health threats which can negatively affect the security of states: (1) despite attempts to strengthen international rules for responding to public health emergencies, there continues to be strong disincentives for states to report disease outbreaks; and (2) systems for detecting and responding to outbreaks of infectious diseases are hindered by a lack of standards of practice for sharing biological samples and specimens. To address these gaps in global governance of infectious disease threats, additional incentives are needed for states to report disease outbreaks to the international community; there should be greater enforcement of countries’ international health obligations; and both political and scientific communities should develop workable practice standards for sharing biological samples of all types.”
By Jennifer B. Nuzzo and Gigi Kwik Gronvall

Center for Biosecurity of UPMC
Publish Date:

Guidance for Enhancing Personnel Reliability and Strengthening the Culture of Responsibility

This report, which is a follow-up to the Board’s May 2009 report on personnel reliability, was undertaken in response to the U.S. government’s request for specific strategies and guidance on practices that promote a culture of responsibility with respect to biosecurity. The Board’s recommendations address good management practices, the role of strong institutional and laboratory leadership and oversight, responsible hiring and employee management practices, and the need to assess that the effectiveness, potential impact, and unintended consequences of any measures being implemented. The report also discusses two potentially useful practices for enhancing personnel reliability and a culture of responsibility at the local level – video monitoring and the “two person rule” – that, while not recommended for broad implementation, should be considered by local institutions only after conducting an assessment of these practices’ risks and impacts. The report also notes practices that the NSABB does not recommend for widespread implementation by institutions, particularly academic institutions.

National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity
Publish Date:
September 2011

Guidelines for Biosafety Laboratory Competency

These guidelines for biosafety laboratory competency outline the essential skills, knowledge, and abilities required for working with biologic agents at the three highest biosafety levels (BSLs) (levels 2, 3, and 4). The competencies are tiered to a worker’s experience at three levels: entry level, midlevel (experienced), and senior level (supervisory or managerial positions). These guidelines were developed on behalf of CDC and the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) by an expert panel comprising 27 experts representing state and federal public health laboratories, private sector clinical and research laboratories, and academic centers. They were then reviewed by approximately 300 practitioners representing the relevant fields. The guidelines are intended for laboratorians working with hazardous biologic agents, obtained from either samples or specimens that are maintained and manipulated in clinical, environmental, public health, academic, and research laboratories.

CDC and the Association of Public Health Laboratories
Publish Date:
April 2011