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CDC says 5 Incidents of Improperly Shipping Pathogens in Past Decade

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Tina Robinson3 years ago

Questions were raised about the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) ability to safely handle dangerous pathogens when news broke that as many as 84 workers could have been exposed to live strains of anthrax bacteria last month. Now, in a report detailing events surrounding the security lapse, the CDC says it knows of four other incidents of pathogens improperly shipped in the past decade, according to the Washington Post.

Four Other CDC Incidents

The report, which was released today, found that during an internal investigation into the anthrax incident, four other incidents occurred in the past decade. Most concerning, said CDC Tom Frieden, was the discovery that H5N1 (bird flu) pathogens had been shipped from the CDC to a U.S. Department of Agriculture lab in Georgia. The report said it took six weeks for workers to report the incident.

The CDC also found three other incidents, including one in which potentially lethal botulism bacteria was improperly shipped.

A full list of the known CDC incidents in the past decade includes:

  • 2006: Transfer of active samples of anthrax DNA from the CDC Bioterror lab to two outside labs.
  • 2006: Clostridium botulinum shipped from a CDC lab to an outside lab.
  • 2009: A straing of Brucella was shipped from a CDC lab to outside labs.
  • 2014: A “highly pathogenic strain” of H5N1 influenza virus shipped from the CDC to a USDA lab in Georgia.
  • 2014: Live anthrax shipped from the CDC Bioterror lab to two lower-security CDC labs.

Small Pox Vials Found on NIH Campus

The CDC report follows on the heels of an earlier discovery this week of live small pox vials found on the Bethesda campus of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The vials, dated from 1954, have already proven viable in lab cultures. It’s unclear how the vials ended up where they were found. The CDC says it will sequence the makeup of the small pox contained in the vials before destroying them.


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