Vials of the smallpox virus found at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland are raising questions over how they went unnoticed for so long, according to a recent CBS News article.
Six glass vials were found to contain smallpox DNA, although health officials are still unsure if the samples are live and potentially dangerous. The startling discovery of the vials by a researcher at the NIH required a multi-agency response from the CDC, FDA, World Health Organization, FBI, and White House National Security Council as smallpox is a potential bioterrorism agent.
Since being eradicated in 1980, samples of the virus are only permitted in two high-security labs in the world – the CDC and the State Research Centre of Virology & Biotechnology in Russia.
Dr. Stephan Monroe, deputy director of the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases at the CDC said it was “one of those flukes” that the vials went unnoticed. “Certainly one of the lessons learned from this episode is that laboratories around the world should have a firm idea of what they have in their collections and…should make an effort to do a complete inventory.” Read the full article here:
It is certainly good that this discovery was made, however, it is concerning that such a hazardous agent could be misplaced or forgotten about.
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