This has been one of those many days when I'm grateful that CIDRAP will always wrap things up and help make sense of them. Lisa Schnirring writes: More problems shutter CDC labs, prompt review. Excerpt:
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.
Next CDC steps
In response to the recent events, the CDC ordered a moratorium on the transfer of biologic material between and outside of its high-containment labs, pending a review by an advisory committee. It also announced other response steps recommended in the anthrax report, along with others designed to address all three of the lab incidents.
The CDC formed a high-level working group to speed lab safety improvements, lift the moratorium on the transfer of materials from the labs, and transfer lab safety accountability to a single point person on lab safety called for in today's anthrax report.
Frieden said the agency is putting together an external advisory group on lab safety, has launched an investigation to pin how the H5N1 virus contaminated another avian influenza virus in a CDC lab, and has established an internal review group to explore the systems, procedures, and personnel issues that led to the events. He added that the agency is taking swift action on personnel issues related to the lab incidents.