Via The New York Times: C.D.C. Closes Anthrax and Flu Labs After Accidents. Excerpt:
After back-to-back potentially serious laboratory accidents, federal health officials announced on Friday that they had closed the flu and anthrax laboratories of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and have halted shipments of all infectious agents from the agency’s highest-security labs.
The accidents, and the C.D.C.'s emphatic response to them, could have important implications for other laboratories around the world engaged in research into dangerous viruses and bacteria.
If the C.D.C — which the agency’s director, Dr. Thomas Frieden, called “the reference laboratory to the world” — had multiple accidents that could have, in theory, killed not just laboratory staff members but even people in the wider public, there will undoubtedly be calls for more stringent controls on other university, military and private laboratories that handle dangerous pathogens.
One of the accidents, in which as many as 75 C.D.C. employees were potentially exposed to live anthrax, was revealed last month. The second, disclosed on Friday, related to the cross-contamination of a flu sample with a dangerous H5N1 bird flu strain.
In addition to those two accidents, Dr. Frieden also announced on Friday that two of six vials of smallpox recently found stored in a National Institutes of Health laboratory since 1954 contained live virus capable of infecting people.
The samples will be destroyed as soon as the genomes of the virus in them can be sequenced. The N.I.H. will scour its freezers and labs for other samples, he said.
“These events revealed totally unacceptable behavior,” Dr. Frieden said. “They should never have happened. I’m upset, I’m angry, I’ve lost sleep over this, and I’m working on it until the issue is resolved.”