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March 11, 2022

WHO asks Ukraine to destroy pathogens in labs to avert disease spread

Crisis in Ukraine increased the risk of pathogens escaping from labs if any such sites are destroyed, biosecurity specialists say.

Understand the impact of the Ukraine conflict from a cross-sector perspective with the Global Data Executive Briefing: Ukraine Conflict


The World Health Organization (WHO) has suggested Ukraine destroy increased threat pathogens that are stored in the country’s laboratories to avert ‘any potential spills’ that could lead to disease spread, the UN agency told Reuters in an email reply.

According to biosecurity specialists, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has increased the risk of the potential of disease-causing pathogens escaping from labs if any such sites are destroyed.

The public health laboratories in Ukraine are studying ways to alleviate the risk of life-threatening diseases that affect humans and animals, including Covid-19. 

The US, the EU and the WHO have offered support to the labs in the country.

Responding to a query from the news agency on the engagement of WHO with Ukraine before and during the invasion by Russia, WHO stated that it partnered with public health labs in the country for many years to boost security practices that aid in averting ‘accidental or deliberate release of pathogens.’

WHO said: “As part of this work, WHO has strongly recommended to the Ministry of Health in Ukraine and other responsible bodies to destroy high-threat pathogens to prevent any potential spills.”

The UN agency did not specify when it issued the advice to Ukraine nor the details related to the types of pathogens stored in the laboratories. 

Furthermore, WHO did not respond to queries regarding whether its latest recommendations were followed by the country.

Reuters added that Ukrainian officials in Kyiv and the country’s embassy in Washington, US, did not respond to its questions.

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