More problems shutter CDC labs, prompt review

Saturday, July 12, 2014
By Paul Martin

Lisa Schnirring
Jul 11, 2014

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today released a report on its investigation into a June anthrax incident at one of its labs, a process that led to new revelations that another of its labs unintentionally sent a sample containing highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza to another lab.

In a new development regarding another pathogen incident at a federal lab, CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, said ongoing tests on six vials labeled “variola” that had been abandoned in a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lab on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) campus yielded live smallpox virus.

He called the three lab incidents serious and troubling, and said workers at CDC’s labs, as well as the American people, depend on the CDC to protect their health. “These events should never have happened,” he said. “CDC labs are a national treasure—a national reference lab for the world.”

Frieden said the incidents serve as a wake-up call for the CDC to explore system changes that can prevent problems in the future. “The culture of lab safety needs to improve at some CDC labs.”

The revelations also cast new light on controversial gain-of-function (GOF) influenza research, according to several experts contacting by CIDRAP News today. Such research aims to further knowledge of flu viruses by identifying dangerous mutations.
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