The number of live anthrax samples that were “accidentally” shipped both across US and abroad has risen, as the Pentagon announce a comprehensive review into the poor handling of the deadly bacteria.
The US military is accused of a “serious breach of trust” in its obligations to protect civilians after admitting it accidentally sent more live samples of anthrax to laboratories than was previously thought.
The deadly anthrax spores were supposed to have been deactivated or dead before being shipped out, but live samples were sent to 24 US labs as well as South Korea and Australia.
Earlier in the week it was revealed that US Army’s Dugway Proving Ground in Utah had shipped live anthrax to laboratories in nine states
In a statement, The Pentagon said “As of now, 24 laboratories in 11 states and two foreign countries are believed to have received suspect samples”
With the new discoveries, the Pentagon is urging all those who received such shipments to stop working with those samples, until further notice from the US authorities. The shipment of supposedly deactivated anthrax specimens reportedly began in March 2014 and continued through April 2015. These samples were mistakenly marked inactive.
“We already know that more labs and more lots of inactivation failures with anthrax spores are being identified,” Daniel Sosin, deputy director of CDC’s Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, wrote in the email to state officials, USA Today quotes. “We have concern that the inactivation procedures, when followed properly, are inadequate to kill all spores, and the US government is developing an approach to securing such possible samples from misuse.”
At the same time the Pentagon announced a “comprehensive review” of the lab procedures, processes, and protocols associated with “inactivating spore-forming anthrax”. The probe by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be led by Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L), Frank Kendall.
“After the CDC investigation is complete, the department will conduct its own investigation with respect to any apparent lapses in performance and ensure appropriate accountability,” DoD said.
The technicians dealing with anthrax not only failed to “inactivate a sample,” but it was followed by a “failure to confirm inactivation before shipping the sample,” which was then followed by a “failure to confirm inactivation upon receiving the sample,” Richard H Ebright, professor of chemical biology at Rutgers University, told the Guardian in an email.
The professor claimed that such cases occur regularly, referring to similar shipments of live anthrax bacteria in 2006 and 2014. The scientific community has welcomed the review of procedures which would hopefully allow avoiding such chains of failures in future.