GAO: Live-pathogen blunders more common than reported
Stars and Stripes | .
published: September 23, 2016
The number of times that dangerous pathogens are not properly “deactivated” for safe scientific study is considerably higher than what’s been reported by agencies overseeing such research, a federal audit says.
The discrepancy arises because laboratories are not required to report such incidents in enough detail, according to a report issued Wednesday by the Government Accountability Office.
Last year, it was revealed that the Army made 575 shipments of anthrax spores that were not completely inactivated to 194 labs and contractors around the world from 2004 to 2015 from its Dugway Proving Ground Sciences Division in Utah. Lab technicians believed the spores had been rendered inactive, but the process used had failed to do so. No one was reported to have been sickened by the anthrax.
However, the safety gap has remained unresolved. In February, Dr. Gerald Parker, a retired Army colonel who once commanded the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md., told a House committee that without better management of biosecurity, incidents such as this “will happen again somewhere in the nation’s laboratory network with a worse outcome.”