There are safety concerns inside some of the laboratories at The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden says three recent incidents have prompted him to take drastic actions to ensure safety. He's calling the safety lapses "serious and troubling."
An investigation found a number of problems at the labs. Among the findings was a lack of standard operating procedures, a lack of adequate laboratory oversight of scientist performing work in the labs, a lack of an approved study plan and use of unapproved sterilization techniques.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shut down some of its laboratories where recent safety lapses took place. One of the closed labs was involved an incident last month that could have accidentally exposed workers in three labs to anthrax. The CDC has issued a moratorium of biological materials from labs in Atlanta to other facilities effective immediately. The moratorium will remain in place pending review by an advisory committee.
While finalizing this report, CDC leadership was made aware that earlier this year a culture of non-pathogenic avian influenza was unintentionally cross-contaminated at the CDC influenza laboratory with the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of influenza and shipped to a laboratory operated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). There were no exposures as a result of that incident. The CDC influenza laboratory is now closed and will not reopen until adequate procedures are put in place. Further investigation, review, and action are underway.
The most recent incident involved Smallpox. Six vials found in a storage room that was being cleaned out at a facility in Maryland. The CDC confirmed today that two of the six vials of smallpox were “alive.” They were dated February 10, 1954. The vials should have been destroyed but were not. They are now at a lab in Atlanta where they will be obliterated.
Dr. Thomas Frieden told reporters today that the CDC will do whatever it takes to prevent future lab mishaps. He says the CDC will review each lab and discipline those who disregarded protocols and didn't report problems promptly.
"We need to look at our culture of safety at all of our laboratories," says Frieden. He says they will implement new systems to prevent incidents in the future. Frieden has named a new head of lab security, who will report directly to him. He's also creating an external advisory group on laboratory safety.