July 28, 2014 – Laboratory Safety


Anchor lead: How worried should we be about smallpox vials found in a government laboratory? Elizabeth Tracey reports

Six vials of unacknowledged stored smallpox virus were found recently in an FDA lab on the campus of the National Institutes of Health.  How is such a thing possible in an environment that is presumably setting the standard for safe custodianship of such human pathogens?  Andrew Pekosz, a human pathogens researcher and laboratory safety expert at Johns Hopkins, comments.

Pekosz:  The incidence at the FDA/NIH is really a peculiar incident because those were vials that were originally set up in the 1950s when the rules for dealing with these pathogens were very, very different than they are now.  Apparently they were somehow not logged in or documented anywhere, when investigators moved they were just left behind, they basically were in long term storage until someone happened to be moving out of that laboratory and decided to take a full inventory of what was there.  Sounds to be like one of those I wonder what’s in this box kind of thing.  :31

Pekosz says that current guidelines should preclude such a mishap.  At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.