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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Thursday that approximately 75 Atlanta-based staff are being monitored or provided antibiotics because they may have been unintentionally exposed to live Bacillus anthracis “after established safety practices were not followed.”
“Based on most of the potential exposure scenarios, the risk of infection is very low,” CDC said, adding that it does not believe “that other CDC staff, family members and the general public are … at risk of exposure and do not need to take any protective action.”
Although the investigation continues, CDC said, “early reports show that one of its Roybal campus biosafety level 3 (BSL3) labs was preparing B. anthracis samples for research in other CDC labs at lower biosafety levels to yield new means of detecting dangerous pathogens in environmental samples. However, the lab used a procedure that did not adequately inactivate the samples.
According to the HS Today report the potentially infectious samples were moved and used for experimentation in three CDC Roybal campus laboratories not equipped to handle live B. anthracis: “Workers, believing the samples were inactivated, were not wearing adequate personal protective equipment while handling the material,” according to CDC statements.
Lab safety investigators also determined that, sometime between June 6 and June 13, procedures used in two of the three labs may have aerosolized the spores, CDC said in its statement. “Environmental sampling was done, lab and hallway areas were decontaminated and laboratories will be re-opened when safe to operate,” CDC said.
CDC reported that “The unintentional exposure was discovered June 13 when the original bacterial plates were gathered for disposal and B. anthracis colonies (live bacteria) were found on the plates. These plates had appeared negative for B. anthracis at the time samples were distributed to the other CDC laboratories.”
CDC continues its internal review to determine why validated procedures were not used by the lab. CDC reported the incident to the Federal Select Agent Program, and said that, “Given that CDC expert protocols were not followed, disciplinary action(s) will be taken as necessary. In addition, CDC will review the safety protocol again with all employees who work in this area.”