Disease diagnosis, and analysis or manipulation of both human and animal samples, expose scientists and practitioners to disease causing agents and toxins. In situations of poor awareness of biosecurity, the same samples can easily be accessed by persons with wrong intentions or misused by the same scientists or practitioners (dualuse). In Uganda information required to minimize the global challenges of biosafety and biosecurity has been largely lacking. The current study assessed the level of awareness and existence of procedures, regulations, laws and policies on biosafety and biosecurity among institutions in the different sectors, professions and regions across the country.
Results showed that sector, profession and region were each a predictor for nine of the assessed variables. Among the most striking was that profession significantly influenced (χ2=49.0) the opinion that institutional measures to prevent or prohibit production, stockpiling, retention or unimpeded access to pathogenic agents and biological toxins existed. Professionals (veterinary scientists and laboratory technologists) in animal health research had reduced odds of holding this opinion (OR=0.2, 95% CI: 0.05-0.87) compared to their counterparts in public hygiene. Scientific establishments in eastern (OR=0.3, 95% CI: 0.17-0.7, p<0.01), northern (OR=0.4, 95% CI: 0.17-0.71, p<0.01) and western (OR=0.3, 95% CI: 0.16-0.51, p<0.01) regions were less associated with professionals trained in biosafety and biosecurity compared to central Uganda. Professionals in wildlife conservation, medical, human health research, public hygiene and crop extension services were 9.5, 7.0, 5.7, 5.4 and 4.0 times, respectively, more likely to consider Uganda’s disease monitoring system as adequate compared to those in veterinary services sector.
We conclude that there is inadequate level of awareness on laboratory biosafety and biosecurity among professionals in the country. There is need for raising awareness and training of relevant professionals and formulation of measures, policies, regulations and laws to help prevent exposure to and misuse of dangerous biological agents and toxins in Uganda.
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