Bangladesh is located in the low-lying Ganges-Brahmaputra River Delta, on the Bay of Bengal, with a population around 160M. The delta plain of the Ganges, Jamuna, and Meghna rivers and their tributaries occupy 79 percent of the country. Four uplifted blocks occupy 9 percent, and steep hill ranges up to ca 1,000 m high occupy 12 percent in the southeast and in the northeast. Bangladesh straddling the Tropic of Cancer, with a tropical monsoon climate, characterized by heavy seasonal rainfall, high temperatures, and high humidity. Natural disasters such as floods and cyclones accompanied by storm surges periodically affect the country. Most of the country is intensively farmed, with rice the main crop, grown in three seasons. The country has an area of 147,610 square km and extends 820 km north to south and 600 km east to west. Bangladesh is bordered on the west, north, and east by a 4,095 km land frontier with India and, in the southeast, by a short land and water frontier (193 km) with Myanmar. On the south of the country is a highly irregular deltaic coastline of about 580 km, fissured by many rivers and streams flowing into the Bay of Bengal. The territorial waters of Bangladesh extend 12 nautical miles (22 km), and the exclusive economic zone of the country is 200 nautical miles (370 km).
Developing countries need to be in a position to establish systems of governance that diligently and judiciously respond to national and international developments associated with biotechnology. Modern biotechnology offers powerful tools for improving human health, agricultural productivity, environmental sustainability, and nutritional quality of staple foods. These technologies are helping to guide more precise human and animal disease diagnosis and treatment, crop and livestock breeding efforts, to diagnose crop and livestock diseases, and to develop more effective human and livestock vaccines. It is believed that safe technique advances research science and safe science is a good science. To perform safe techniques it is the perquisite to have a safe laboratory environment. The laboratory requires knowledgeable, trained, and experienced laboratorians to run the laboratory system and its functions. Most importantly, in-depth knowledge in the field of Biosafety and Biosecurity and theoretical and hands on training in this area is considered as the basic qualification for working in a microbiological or biomedical research or diagnostic laboratories. One of the most pressing global public health challenges is the ongoing threat of infectious diseases. Strengthening the capacity for public and veterinary health systems to detect, report, and control infectious disease outbreaks is essential to disease control and should be a top priority for ensuring a healthy nation. Thus, laboratory capacity is growing to meet the needs of diagnosing illnesses and conducting research on endemic and emerging pathogens in humans and animals in Bangladesh.
Human Nipah outbreaks in Bangladesh are unlike other Nipah outbreaks as they exhibit person-to-person transmission and recur in a specific region almost annually during the winter and spring. This is most commonly seen in the family and caregivers of infected patients. Transmission also occurs from direct exposure to infected bats. A common example is consumption of raw date palm sap contaminated with infectious bat excretions. Both the National and International organizations in Bangladesh are working in collaboration with US CDC teams investigating the Nipah outbreaks. Despite global efforts to combat tuberculosis (TB), the disease remains a major public health problem worldwide, especially in developing countries such as Bangladesh. The major zoonotic bacterial diseases recorded in Bangladesh are Anthrax, Tuberculosis, Brucellosis, Salmonellosis, Campylobacteriosis and Leptospirosis, of which only Anthrax has been reported as clinical outbreaks form in both the humans and cattle. B. anthracis is ransmitted to the human population by contaminated meat, with the most recent outbreak occurring during 2010-2011. Like surrounding countries, Bangladesh also has had reported cases of H5N1 in birds that have culminated in human infections. All types of emerging, reemerging and neglected zoonotic diseases are widely prevalent and pose a great threat to human health, animals and environment in Bangladesh. Animal diseases are diagnosed and/or researched at the Bangladesh Agrucultural University (BAU), Chittagong Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (CVASU), Bangladesh Livestock Research Institute (BLRI), Central Disease Investigation Laboratory (CDIL), and the Field Disease Investigation Laboratories (FDIL).
Success with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) brinjal has led Bangladesh to prioritize the field testing of a new late blight resistant potato, which is an important crop occupying 0.5 million hectares in Bangladesh. Once released, the blight resistant (RB) potato will be farmers' answer to late blight, one of the most devastating plant diseases caused by fungal attack. Bt cotton is being evaluated in field trials as well as Golden Rice, which could address the prevalent Vitamin A deficiency in the country. Each year Bangladesh grows a paltry 0.15 million bales of cotton and spends up to Tk 20,000 crore for importing over 5 million bales more to meet the demand.
Farmers in Bangladesh spend up to Tk 100 crore a year in spraying 500 tonnes of fungicide to protect this major tuber crop. Typical synthetic pesticides have become increasingly ineffective in fighting cotton bollworm, thereby causing up to 20 percent crop losses. Cotton growers' expenditure on pesticides accounts for 40 percent of the total production costs.
People in Bangladesh depend on rice for 70 percent of their daily calorie intakes. Rice does not contain any beta carotene. Dependence on rice as the predominant food source, therefore, necessarily leads to Vitamin A deficiency, most severely affecting small children and pregnant women. On completion of a successful trial of the genetically engineered Golden Rice at the transgenic screen house of Bangladesh Rice Research Institute, scientists have taken the biotech rice “GR-2 E BRRI dhan29” to confined field trials recently. Consumption of only 150 gram of Golden Rice a day is expected to supply half of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A for an adult.
Genetically modified crops may have better taste, increased nutrients, resistance to disease and pests, and faster output of crops. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says that farmers can grow more food on less land with genetically modified crops. Genetically modified animals have certain genes inserted into their genomes so that they can produce ‘better’ milk, eggs, and meat. These animals also are expected to have a higher resistance to disease and overall better health, with better natural waste management. In theory, genetically modified crops and animals will also be more environmentally friendly because they conserve water, soil, and energy. However, there are controversies about GMOs. One of these controversies are the potential health risks, including allergies, antibiotic resistance, and unknown effects. Other negatives that stem from GMOs are that scientists are tampering with nature by mixing genes and no one knows what this is doing to the animals or the environment.
GMO is going to be more and more popular in Bangladesh. Thus, this is the time to grow awareness and to formulate and implement policies and procedures on the development and use GMO and LMO in Bangladesh.
The establishment of the Society was initiated in August 2011 (http://virtualbiosecuritycenter.org/blog/op-ed-enhancing-biosecurity-and-biosafety-in-bangladesh) as a professional society to foster best and sustainable Biosafety and Biosecurity practices in Bangladesh considering the current situation of infectious diseases outbreaks and increasing demands for research and diagnostics of these disease-causing agents. Virtual Biosecurity Center (VBC) and Biosafety Biosecurity International (BBI) supported the initiation of the activity regarding the formation of the Society. icddr,b played the key role organizing and hosting all those activities. Enhancing Biosafety and Biosecurity by inculcating local scientists in the ethical considerations of conducting life-sciences research and the development of codes of conducts for such research; promoting local leadership for a sustained Biosafety Biosecurity presence; and laying the foundation to create a Biosafety and Biosecurity Society, which can promote codes, support local learning initiatives, and as a professional society can play a role in promulgating national Biosafety and Biosecurity legislation is a holistic approach.
The benefits envisioned by the society are:
The Society is working for the prevention of large-scale loss of biological integrity, focusing both on ecology and human health. The mechanisms of prevention include, but not limited to, conduction of regular reviews of the biosafety and biosecurity policies and procedures in laboratory settings and in field activities and the adherence to applicable national and international guidelines. The aim of our program is to protect human, animal and the environment from harmful incidents. This is an established fact that human errors, poor technique, and contravening the standards contribute to unnecessary exposure and compromise the best safeguards set into place for protection. The society is actively working to promote biosafety and biosecurity to create awareness, train and retrain researchers and diagnosticians working in the field of health and agriculture to minimize human errors, to introduce best practices and techniques, and observing the standards contributing to controlling exposure and ensuring the best safeguards set into place for maximizing protection.
Tthe Society has substentially contributed in strengthening Biosafety and Biosecurity in Bangladesh working in association with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta. Given the need to conduct baseline assessments of microbiological and biochemical research laboratories in Bangladesh, an appropriate assessment tool was developed. Using this tool, assessments were conducted in selected microbiology laboratories by the resource persons of the Society. Training modules were developed to sensitize different levels of stakeholders at the division levels using the platform of the Society. Advocacy and sensitization programs for all the divisions in Bangladesh are also ongoing involving the trained trainers of the Society. Resource persons were further identified for all divisions and were given proper training and be mentored to work as an independent expert in their respective regions. Biosafety and Biosecurity training materials have been adapted, and are translated to Bangla and planed to disseminate those broadly through this website. National guidelines for handling, storage, transportation, and manipulation of biohazardous materials have been drafted. Based upon the needs identified through assessments and experience gathered from the nationwide sensitization program immediate, short-, mid-, and long-term plans have been proposed to enhance the Biosafety and Biosecurity practices in Bangladesh, to control and contain the spread of tropical and infectious diseases.
We thank Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, USA and Biosecurity Engagement Program (BEP) of the United States Department of State for substantial support for the development of this website.