As many as 75 federal scientists may have been exposed to anthrax

Anthrax bacteria. (Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Anthrax bacteria. (Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Up to 75 scientists who work at a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention biosecurity lab in Atlanta may have been exposed to anthrax, because researchers there did not follow procedures for inactivating the deadly and highly contagious bacteria.

None of the scientists at the federal lab have symptoms, but some are being treated with antibiotics “out of an abundance of caution,” a CDC spokesperson told Reuters.

From the New York Times:

The lapse occurred sometime from June 6 to June 13. Workers who were not wearing appropriate protective gear moved samples of the highly infectious bacteria that they believed had been deactivated. The agency said in a statement that procedures used in two laboratories in Atlanta, where the C.D.C. is based, may have “aerosolized the spores,” essentially pushing active parts of the bacteria into the air. The exposure was discovered June 13, when the bacterial plates were to be disposed of, and live B. anthrasis colonies, or anthrax bacteria, were found on them, the agency said. The plates had tested negative for the bacteria at the time they were distributed to the labs, the agency said.

"Up to 75 C.D.C. Scientists May Have Been Exposed to Anthrax" [NYT]

Reuters has a related early report with additional details.

Notable Replies

  1. Rather sloppy work by the laboratories involved. Having worked in ACL4 labs, similar to those used for anthrax, this shows very poor procedures and checks.
    Isn't it time that both the US and Russia finely destroyed their stock of the Anthrax virus. It's only real use seems to be in WMD, which no one on the planet either wants or needs.

  2. Pretty sure it's bacteria.

  3. Unfortunately, anthrax is found in the wild all over the world, so destroying weaponized stocks wouldn't prevent someone going out into a sheep field tomorrow and starting again.

  4. There are probably a limited number of scientists who are qualified to work with anthrax. (The bacillus, not the band.) There is therefore a pretty good probability the "anthrax killer," who was never caught, might be one of those infected. I really hope karma is a bitch.

  5. I don't know about the specific process of weaponizing for various specific military applications, but the endospores of anthrax will give you "anthrax pneumonia" right out of the ground, 100% natural and organic. They're hardcore little motherfuckers too. The nature of endospores is that they are hardy and tough to kill, and easy to grow, that's why they became a bioterror weapon of choice. Botulinum and anthracis spores can survive a lengthy boiling that would kill almost anything else, and they stay "good" on the shelf for years. Their method of attack is pretty Delta Force, too. They get in your lungs, get a phagocyte to take them up, ride into your lymph and then germinate (turn back from spore to vegetative bacteria) and go to town. The envelope attacks, I believe, were just concentrated spores, higher than you'd get hit with in your typical sheep field. It's hasn't really been found to be communicable from human to human, though.

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