In response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and concerns that it might spread, Japan has decided to upgrade one of its infectious disease labs to handle such BSL-4 pathogens, Nature News reports.
Japan's National Institute of Infectious Diseases built the lab, located less than 20 miles outside Tokyo, more than 30 years ago to be a BSL-4 lab, but it has been operating as a BSL-3 lab due to safety concerns, it adds. But worries last year that the Ebola outbreak could reach Japan spurred the decision to revamp it as a working BSL-4 lab.
There are some restrictions on what researchers in the lab will be able to do, however, Nature News reports. For instance, it says that BSL-4 work there will be limited to diagnosing and treating patients. But researchers like Ayato Takada at Hokkaido University hope this will pave the way for scientists to perform basic research in a BSL-4 lab — he currently collaborates with international researchers and flies to the US multiple times a year to use labs there.
"It's time-consuming and expensive," Takada tells Nature News. "I really hope the decision at Murayama will have a good influence on the likelihood of the Nagasaki University BSL-4 plan."