Wednesday, May 27, 2015

DOD Inadvertently Ships Live Anthrax To 9 Labs

# 10,104

The past 12 months have not exactly been stellar examples of good government lab biosafety, with several high profile `incidents' (see CDC Statement On Possible Lab Exposure To Anthrax), (see CDC Media Statement on Newly Discovered Smallpox Specimens), and the accidental shipment of live H5N1 to a USDA lab in Georgia (see CDC Announces Another Serious Biosecurity Incident).

While no laboratory workers were harmed in the making of these blunders, it nonetheless led to several heated congressional hearings, new lab safety regulations, and a promise that  labs around the country would work fervently to foster a greater `culture of safety’

We saw a setback on Christmas Eve when we learned of yet another incident (see CDC Statement On Ebola Lab Incident ) where the BSL-4 Ebola virus was inadvertently shipped to a BSL-2 lab.

Once again, no one was infected, but the CDC's review made additional recommendations for continued safety improvements.

Fast forward almost exactly a year since the first incident - involving anthrax - and we have a report this afternoon that a DOD lab has inadvertently shipped live anthrax to labs in 9 states; California, Texas, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey and New York.

While details are still coming out, this from NBC News.

Live Anthrax Mistakenly Sent to U.S. Labs

Federal health officials say they are investigating the accidental shipment of live anthrax bacteria to labs in nine states. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms that it's investigating the accidental shipments.

No one's been sickened by the bacteria, which can cause potentially deadly illness although it's easily treated with antibiotics if caught soon enough.

"CDC is investigating the possible inadvertent transfer of a select agent from the U. S. Department of Defense (DOD) to labs in nine states. At this time we do not suspect any risk to the general public," CDC said in a statement sent to NBC News.
(Continue . . . )


I've looked for, but have not found on the CDC media site, the CDC statement.   Presumably we'll learn more in the next few days. 

All of this is likely to renew calls for greater oversight on the use of select agents, and some restrictions on what types of research that should be permitted. Last year, it was quite the  hot topic, as the following blogs attest.

The Journal Nature Weighs In On Lab Accidents & Biosafety Making Viruses Deadlier – An Accident Waiting To Happen.

While scientists engaged in this type of work insist that the risks are negligible (see Scientists For Science: GOF Research `Essential’ & Can be Done `Safely’), many others  (see Updating The Cambridge Working Group) are less convinced.

Some earlier blogs on this highly contentious debate include:

mBio: The Risks & Benefits Of `GOF’ Experimentation On Pathogens With Pandemic Potential
The Laboratory Bio-Safety Backlash Continues
ECDC Comment On Gain Of Function Research
Lipsitch & Galvani: GOF Research Concerns

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