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News :: Environment
U.S. labs mishandling deadly germs
03 Oct 2007
but we knew that, didnt we? more details...breathe deep, the gathering gloom...
By LARRY MARGASAK, Associated Press Writer /Tue Oct 2, 7:48 AM ET/
WASHINGTON - American laboratories handling the world's deadliest germs
and toxins have experienced more than 100 accidents and missing
shipments since 2003, and the number is increasing steadily as more labs
across the country are approved to do the work.
No one died, and regulators said the public was never at risk during
these incidents. But the documented cases reflect poorly on procedures
and oversight at high-security labs, some of which work with organisms
and poisons so dangerous that illnesses they cause have no cure. In some
cases, labs have failed to report accidents as required by law.
The mishaps include workers bitten or scratched by infected animals,
skin cuts, needle sticks and more, according to a review by The
Associated Press of confidential reports submitted to federal
regulators. They describe accidents involving anthrax, bird flu virus,
monkeypox and plague-causing bacteria at 44 labs in 24 states. More than
two-dozen incidents were still under investigation.
The number of accidents has risen steadily. Through August, the most
recent period covered in the reports obtained by the AP, labs reported
36 accidents and lost shipments during 2007 --- nearly double the number
reported during all of 2004.
Research labs have worked for years to find cures and treatments for
diseases. However, the expansion of the lab network has been dramatic
since President Bush announced an upgrade of the nation's bio-warfare
defense program five years ago. The National Institute of Allergy and
Infectious Diseases, which funds much of the lab research and
construction, was spending spent about $41 million on bio-defense labs
in 2001. By last year, the spending had risen to $1.6 billion.
The number of labs approved by the government to handle the deadliest
substances has nearly doubled to 409 since 2004. Labs are routinely
inspected by federal regulators just once every three years, but
accidents trigger interim inspections.
"It may be only a matter of time before our nation has a public health
incident with potentially catastrophic results," said Rep. Bart Stupak,
D-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce investigations
subcommittee. Stupak's panel has been investigating the lab incidents
and will conduct a hearing Thursday.
Lab accidents have affected the outside world: Britain's health and
safety agency concluded there was a "strong probability" a leaking pipe
at a British lab manufacturing vaccines for foot-and-mouth disease was
the source of an outbreak of the illness in livestock earlier this year.
Britain was forced to suspend exports of livestock, meat and milk
products and destroy livestock. The disease does not infect humans.
Accidents aren't the only concern. While medical experts consider it
unlikely that a lab employee will become sick and infect others, these
labs have strict rules to prevent anyone from stealing organisms or
toxins and using them for bioterrorism.
The reports were so sensitive the Bush administration refused to release
them under the Freedom of Information Act, citing an anti-bioterrorism
law aimed at preventing terrorists from locating stockpiles of poisons
and learning who handles them.
Among the previously undisclosed accidents:
_In Rockville, Md., ferret No. 992, inoculated with bird flu virus, bit
a technician at Bioqual Inc. on the right thumb in July. The worker was
placed on home quarantine for five days and directed to wear a mask to
_An Oklahoma State University lab in Stillwater in December could not
account for a dead mouse inoculated with bacteria that causes joint
pain, weakness, lymph node swelling and pneumonia. The rodent --- one of
30 to be incinerated --- was never found, but the lab said an employee
"must have forgotten to remove the dead mouse from the cage" before the
cage was sterilized.
_In Albuquerque, N.M., an employee at the Lovelace Respiratory Research
Institute was bitten on the left hand by an infected monkey in September
2006. The animal was ill from an infection of bacteria that causes
plague. "When the gloves were removed, the skin appeared to be broken in
2 or 3 places," the report said. The worker was referred to a doctor,
but nothing more was disclosed.
_In Fort Collins, Colo., a worker at a federal Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention facility found, in January 2004, three broken
vials of Russian spring-summer encephalitis virus. Wearing only a
laboratory coat and gloves, he used tweezers to remove broken glass and
moved the materials to a special container. The virus, a potential
bio-warfare agent, could cause brain inflammation and is supposed to be
handled in a lab requiring pressure suits that resemble space suits. The
report did not say whether the worker became ill.
Other reports describe leaks of contaminated waste, dropped containers
with cultures of bacteria and viruses, and defective seals on airtight
containers. Some recount missing or lost shipments, including plague
bacteria that was supposed to be delivered to the Armed Forces Institute
of Pathology in 2003. The wayward shipment was discovered eventually in
Belgium and incinerated safely.
The reports must be submitted to regulators whenever a lab suffers a
theft, loss or release of any of 72 substances known as "select agents"
--- a government list of germs and toxins that represent the horror
stories of the world's worst medical tragedies for humans and animals.
A senior CDC official, Dr. Richard Besser, said his agency is committed
to ensuring that U.S. labs are safe and that all such incidents are
disclosed to the government. He said he was unaware of any risk to the
public resulting from infections among workers at the high-security
labs, but he acknowledged that regulators are worried about accidents
that could go unreported.
"If you're asking if it's possible for someone to not report an
infection, and have it missed, that clearly is a concern that we have,"
Texas A&M's laboratory failed to report, until this year, one case of a
lab worker's infection from Brucella bacteria last year and three
others' previous infection with Q fever --- missteps documented in news
reports earlier this year. The illnesses are characterized by high
fevers and flu-like symptoms that sometimes cause more serious
"The major problems at Texas A&M went undetected and unreported, and we
don't think that it was an isolated event," critic Edward Hammond said.
He runs the Sunshine Project, which has tracked incidents at other labs
for years and first revealed the Texas A&M illnesses that the school
failed to report.
Rules for working in the labs are tough and are getting more restrictive
as the bio-safety levels rise. The highest is Level 4, where labs study
substances that pose a "high risk of life-threatening disease for which
no vaccine or therapy is available." Besides wearing wear full-body,
air-supplied suits, workers undergo extensive background checks and
carry special identification cards.
"The risk that a killer agent could be set loose in the general
population is real," Hammond said.
In other lab accidents recounted in the reports, the Public Health
Research Institute in Newark, N.J., was investigated by the FBI in 2005
when it couldn't account for three of 24 mice infected with plague
bacteria. The lab and the CDC concluded the mice were cannibalized by
other plague-infested mice or buried under bedding when the cage was
sterilized with high temperatures.
The lab's director, Dr. David Perlin, told the AP it would be impossible
for mice to escape from the building and said a worker failed to record
"I feel 99 percent comfortable that was the case," Perlin said. "The
animals become badly cannibalized. You only see bits and pieces. They're
in cages with shredded newspaper. You really have to search hard with
gloves and masks."
A worker at the Army's biological facility in Fort Detrick, Md., was
grazed by a needle in February 2004 and exposed to the deadly Ebola
virus after a mouse kicked a syringe. She was placed in an isolation
ward called "The Slammer," but the Army said she did not become ill.
In other previously undisclosed accidents:
In Decatur, Ga., a worker at the Georgia Public Health Laboratory
handled a Brucella culture in April 2004 without high-level precautions.
She became feverish months later and tested positive for exposure at a
hospital emergency room in July. She eventually returned to work. The
lab's confidential report defended her: "The technologist is a good
laboratorian and has good technique."
In April this year at the Loveless facility in Albuquerque, an African
green monkey infected intentionally with plague-causing bacteria reached
with its free hand and scratched at a Velcro restraining strap, cutting
into the gloved hand of a lab worker. The injured worker at the Lovelace
Respiratory Research Institute received medical treatment, including an
The National Animal Disease Center in Ames, Iowa, reported leaks of
contaminated waste three times in November and December 2006. While one
worker was preparing a pipe for repairs, he cut his middle finger,
possibly exposing him to Brucella, according to the confidential reports.
A researcher at the CDC's lab in Fort Collins, Colo., dropped two
containers on the floor last November, including one with plague bacteria.
A worker at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research-Naval Medical
Research Center in Silver Spring, Md., sliced through two pair of gloves
while handling a rat carcass infected with plague bacteria. The May 2005
report said she was sent to an emergency room, which released her and
asked her to return for a follow-up visit.
all these zionists and nazis need to be eradicated this time
no war trials and allowing of the perps to be split up[
all the luftwaffe and the department of homeland security people, the bush regime and the usa govt except for 15 or so people need to be eradicated out of hand
the death penalty, we have all the lists of these scum at hand now
no 5th reich, no zion
never ever again
they shall be eradicated like rabid dogs
all of them
especially the nazi doctors and scientists
This work is in the public domain