Safety a Concern After High Visibility Mistakes at Government Labs

Several recent incidents involving collections of dangerous pathogens have put safety protocols at government labs at the center of the public’s attention.

Recently, 300 vials containing materials infected with infectious diseases were discovered in a storage room at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The vials, which had been there for decades, included six vials containing smallpox. The other vials contained dengue, influenza, and other viruses.

In June, anthrax samples thought to be inactive were moved from highly secure labs to less secure ones at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta.

The Food and Drug Administration has called for a complete inventory of its cold storage facilities. The cold storage facility at NIH where the smallpox vials were found has been operated by FDA since 1972.

Tests by the CDC found some of the smallpox virus to still be alive, despite dating from 1946 to 1964.