Beating the world’s deadliest viral villains

December 29, 2019

[Theme music plays] (Glen Paul) G’day and welcome
to CSIROvod, I’m Glen Paul. You’ve no doubt heard of
the deadly Hendra virus, which came out of
nowhere back in 1994 and it showed, like many
other animal diseases, that it’s capable of crossing
over into the human population. That’s why I’ve come here to CSIRO’s
Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong, Victoria, to meet the Scientists working on the
frontline of Australia’s defence in fighting exotic and
emerging diseases. The day of my visit coincided
with the opening of a new Bio-Safety Level
Four Laboratory, which, if you’ve seen the
Hollywood movie Contagion will know, is the most bio-secure
laboratory you can get. To officially open the new
wing, Professor Martyn Jeggo was coordinating a
ribbon cutting ceremony between the Minister for Innovation,
Industry, Science and Research, Senator the Honourable Kim
Carr and Dr Glen Marsh, via video link from
the bio-secure unit, deep within the solid concrete
walls of the complex. (Prof Jaeger) On the count
of three, if I may. Can I ask you both to cut the ribbon
we’ll do this in a virtual manner. So, Glen are you ready. (Dr Marsh) I’m ready, Martin. (Prof Jaeger) One, two, three. [Audience laughs and applauds] (Glen Paul) With proceedings
now out of the way, I was keen to leave the celebrations
and check out the new lab, however, had I known
what was involved, I might have opted to
stay for cake instead. Safety Officer, Debbie Logan
explained the procedure for going secure with the
help of a mock up airlock. (Debbie Logan) If you
see someone in there, please step out of
the change area, otherwise this is where you’ll
take off all your clothing and all your clothing gets put
into your arcade locker which is there along with the badge
that you’re wearing. So you’re standing their
naked, even your underwear, some people seem to think
taking their underwear in, ‘cause they’re opening
and closing doors, please leave your underwear here.
So you’re standing there naked. (Glen Paul) With the
induction complete, I met up with Emma who would act as my
guide through the bio-security maze. So, we’re going to
go in here now, there’s a lot of nasties beyond
this door as you can see. So this is where I have
to get all my gear off, get naked and head on
through to the other side. I won’t be able to take
that big camera through, because the decontamination
would likely destroy it, so I’m going to film the rest
on this little camera here. The airlock separating
the two worlds would act as a decontamination
shower on the way out. Press this button here. [Sound of air releasing] Wait a few moments. Dressed in the functional attire
that had been left for me, I was ready to venture out. It’s about now that it
really starts to hit home, just exactly where you
are, sharing living space with some of the deadliest
diseases on the planet. The Scientists working at the
highest level of bio-security have to wear bio-secure
laboratory suits, which take a bit
of getting into. But going to work with dangerous and
exotic agents that are fatal to humans and where there are no vaccines
or other treatments available, for Scientists like Shawn Todd, you
wouldn’t have it any other way. [Music Plays] But now, suited up, he’s
ready to put in the boot. Before entering the hot zone, I caught
up with the Director of the facility, Professor Martyn Jeggo and asked
him about the new laboratory. (Dr Jeggo) It’s a new laboratory
within our current laboratory complex. And what it’s addressing is the issue
that we’ve seen a change in the risk. The risk use to be, for most
of these nasty viruses, to our livestock industries. But we’ve seen, more recently,
an emergence of these diseases from livestock into humans. There are a lot of changes that
are occurring in our planet. There are many more of us. We’re travelling in a way we
never use to travel before. We’re entering areas of our ecosystem
that we didn’t use to go in before. We’ve got climate change and climate change is allowing these
viruses to be in different places. We’re urbanising, we’re
in much larger groups and viruses like large groups of
animals or humans to work with. All of those things have resulted
in the change risk profile and so increasingly
we’re seeing, actually viruses
come from wildlife into our domestic animals
and then into humans. Seventy-five percent of new infectious
diseases in humans arise from animals, so this new lab allows us
to work with those viruses that affect not just
livestock but man as well. In fact, the vast majority of
the viruses we work with now there is no treatment in man, so we have to make
absolutely certain that our guys are safe
when working with these. That’s what this new lab does. (Glen Paul) And stepping into the
ring with these bad boys every day you certainly would want
the best in protection. With that it was time for
some decontamination. In here is the shower which I’ll step
into shortly and totally wash myself, and leave all of these
clothes here on this side, so when I go through
on the other side I’ve got nothing with me that
was over in the secure area. You might be wondering what
happens to all the shower water, what if I have picked up some bug
that gets washed out down the drain. Well, there’s absolutely
no possibility of that. All waste water and sewage
is treated on site, nothing gets out, not even air,
without being filtered and treated. It is, after all, the world’s most
advance high containment laboratory. CSIRO’s Australian Animal
Health Laboratory, it’s here that Scientists draw the
line in the sand in their fight against deadly animal
and human disease. And if you’d like to find out
more about the research, the work going on here at the
Australian Animal Health Laboratory, just visit our website

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