You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

CDC labs sanctioned for mishandling potential bioweapons

Engadget Engadget 11/05/2016 Mariella Moon
© Provided by Engadget

You'd think an agency like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would be extremely careful in handling potential bioweapons. But according to a report by USA Today, at least one CDC lab's permit was secretly suspended in recent years for "serious safety violations while working with bioterror pathogens." In addition, the agency has admitted to the publication that its labs had been sanctioned six times since 2003 for the same reason. Take note that the CDC helps run the Federal Select Agent Program, which oversees any work on anthrax, Ebola and other bioterror pathogens.

The CDC said the lab that got its permit revoked in 2007 is located in Colorado. Its scientists were working on the Japanese encephalitis virus that causes inflammation of the brain. They ended up destroying all their samples after a USDA inspection, but the lab's permit got reinstated in 2010.

The agency was more secretive when it came to the labs that faced sanctions. It refused to divulge which facilities they are exactly, but it did tell the publication why they were investigated. In three instances, the labs sent pathogens, which weren't properly killed, to recipients not authorized to receive them. Twice, someone reported that they discovered potential bioweapons in places where they shouldn't be within the agency's facilities. The last instance involved "inventory and oversight concerns." Only one of these cases remain open -- the other five were closed after it was determined that the CDC tweaked its procedures to prevent anything similar from happening again.

USA Today unearthed all these info after winning a Freedom of Information Act appeal filed after it found out last year that 100 labs in the US faced federal sanctions. The publication says the new information that came to light proves that the CDC's facilities have one of the worst regulatory histories in the country. Despite the repeated sanctions and suspended permit involving fatal pathogens, the agency assured the publication that there's no need to panic. It told USA Today that "[n]one of these violations resulted in a risk to the public or illness in laboratory workers."

USA Today

More from Engadget

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon