Scientists belonging to an Atlanta lab, numbering 84, have been possibly
exposed to live, active anthrax bacteria, reports the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDS).
A week ago, the CDC's bioterror rapid response and advanced
technology laboratory discovered to their shock that they had
inadvertently sent live anthrax bacteria out to scientists in three other
One of the labs that received the samples was a bioterror facility that had
proper security procedures in place to handle infectious agents.
The other two labs that received anthrax samples were not better equipped
due to their lower biosecurity level.
During disposal, they discovered live spores of anthrax in the agar
CDC investigators suspect that the workers might have been possibly exposed
to the bacteria through air.
The labs have been closed down to carry out decontamination work.
The 84 workers potentially exposed to the bacteria will be monitored closely
and will receive vaccines and antibiotics if any health risks are found.
Anthrax infects both humans and animals and in most cases is lethal.
Through anthrax is not transmitted from one animal or person to another
directly, it is spread through spores
The spores get reactivated and grow in large numbers when inhaled or
ingested or by contact with a skin lesion on a host.
The symptoms don't show up immediately but may take nearly two months to
The incident has raised concern in U.S. Congress about poor safety
procedures in place in bioterror labs and may warrant a congressional hearing
to protect federal employees from potential infection.
"This certainly may rise to the level of a congressional hearing,
especially in light of the fact that not too terribly long ago there were other
incidents. Although they're unrelated, they both speak to a breakdown in
protocol," said Republican Representative Michael Burgess, a physician who
sits on a second CDC oversight panel, the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Last year, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) had issued a warning
to Congress about possibility of risk due to laboratory accidents.
Meanwhile, the CDC released a statement assuring staff, family members and the public
that the labs would remain closed until they are made entirely risk free.
"CDC's guiding principles for laboratory work are to ensure the safety
of all staff and the community and be as transparent as possible about our work
as we conduct high-quality scientific research to protect people in this
country and around the world."