In DepthBiosecurity

As new botulism threat implodes, more questions

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Science  27 Feb 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6225, pp. 934-935
DOI: 10.1126/science.347.6225.934

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In 2013, Stephen Arnon of the California Department of Public Health reported finding a novel type of botulinum toxin against which no existing antitoxins offered protection, opening a potential gap in biosecurity. Arnon decided not to reveal the genetic sequence of the microbe that produced the toxin in his papers. But since then, government researchers have concluded that the toxin poses no special threat at all, and posted the entire sequence in GenBank. Many in the small field of botulinum research still wonder how two labs could arrive at such radically different conclusions, and many say the episode could have ended much earlier—or been prevented altogether—if Arnon had been willing to share the strain of Clostridium botulinum with other labs sooner.