The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been forced to close two labs this week following a number of mishaps involving live germ samples.
The CDC has also decided to stop shipping deadly bacteria and viruses from lab to lab. The CDC, which works in the field of disease research and prevention said it had, in recent months, faced crises involving diseases like anthrax, bird flu, and smallpox.
The problems started in March, when one of the two CDC labs (now shut) sent some fairly benign flu samples to the Department of Agriculture for research - samples that were contaminated with H5N1, otherwise known as avian flu.
The samples were destroyed when the Atlanta-based lab noticed the serious oversight. Unelievably, the mishap went unreported, leaving CDC director Thomas Frieden to finally find out this week, while investigating a different safety lapse, involving anthrax.
A shocked Frieden said during a teleconference this week that he was upset and angry at the lapse. He said he had lost sleep over it and he was doing everything he could to make sure it did happen again.
The anthrax incident involved a high-security lab, the other location shut down last week, sending samples of the deadly bacteria to a lab with fewer biosecurity safeguards and by way of unforgivable negligence the supposedly dead samples were found to be very much alive.
Fortunately, it appears that there had been no infections following the mishap and although Frieden confirmed that there was no evidence to suggest anyone had been exposed to influenza, he indicated he was ''astonished'' and angered by the breaches.
The anthrax incident involved 80 lab workers as the CDC scientists were attempting to research new methods of detecting and destroying anthrax bacteria, using a range of chemicals.
The scientist who were receiving the live anthrax samples in low-security laboratories, believed they were inactive and, therefore, did not employ the appropriate protective gear. It was later revealed, however, that the scientists responsible for sending the live bacteria were not properly updated on the latest literature on the proper inactivation of anthrax.
But that is not all, the CDC recently reported that National Institutes of Health workers had stumbled across forgotten vials of smallpox, that had been wrongly placed in a storage room in a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) laboratory.
According to the FDA, the vials, dating back to the 1950s, would likely be destroyed under the supervision of workers from the World Health Organization.