U.S. Tuberculosis Lab Resumes Shipments as Others Remain Closed

Jul 24, 2014 6:23 pm ET

July 24 (Bloomberg) -- One tuberculosis lab run by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control will resume shipment of biological materials while the ban on transfers remains for all other high- biosecurity labs, the agency said.

The Atlanta-based CDC placed a freeze on biological materials coming out of high-containment labs on July 11 after an investigation into a possible anthrax exposure uncovered further safety problems at the agency’s labs.

“We’re doing everything we can to correct these issues,” Tom Skinner, a CDC spokesman, said in a telephone interview. “These events just simply can’t happen. Period.”

Safety procedures at each lab are being reviewed by an internal committee and the tuberculosis labs safety protocols were approved, according to a CDC statement.

The tuberculosis lab received priority review because it deals directly with patient safety, the CDC said. The lab is part of the process used to test whether TB patients have a drug resistant strain of the lung infection.

The lab where workers were potentially exposed to anthrax and the lab that shipped a highly contagious strain of avian flu remain closed. Those labs must complete a review process by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, make changes and then be reinspected, Skinner said. There have been five instances of dangerous pathogens being improperly released by CDC labs in the past decade, according to the investigation released July 11.

A new external safety committee with 11 members from U.S. universities, state and international health agencies will meet for the first time in August, the CDC also announced. The panel will advise CDC Director Thomas Frieden on safety protocols. Joseph Kanabrocki, a microbiologist and assistant dean for biosafety at the University of Chicago, will head the group.

Additional independent oversight of research on dangerous pathogens may be needed, Frieden said July 22 at the National Press Club, because CDC researchers may be too used to the risks.