Concerned about the threat of biological terrorism, a powerful US senator will lead a team of high-level Pentagon officials on an inspection tour of Kenyan germ laboratories next week.
Richard Lugar, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will be accompanied by the director of the US Defence Department's Threat Reduction Agency as well as by the heads of units focused on biological defence and global strategy.
The labs to be inspected are designed for the study of infectious diseases. Work to develop treatments and to help prevent outbreaks also takes place at these facilities.
But Pentagon officials warn that the Kenyan labs have not been sufficiently secured against terrorism threats.
"Deadly diseases like Ebola, Marburg and anthrax are prevalent in Africa," Senator Lugar said in a statement announcing a trip that will take him to Uganda and Burundi as well as to Kenya.
"Al-Qa'ida and other terrorist groups are active in Africa, and it is imperative that deadly pathogens stored in labs there are secure."
“These pathogens can be made into horrible weapons aimed at our troops, our friends and allies, and even the American public,” the senator added. “This is a threat we cannot ignore.”
Mr Lugar said he has been told by Pentagon chief Robert Gates that the inspection tour will help ensure that the governments of Kenya and Uganda work closely with the United States to secure the labs.
The US delegation is scheduled to arrive in Kenya on November 16. A list of the sites the Americans will visit has not been released.