Live Anthrax mess is more widespread than meets the eye: Military ordered a more massive probe

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is as yet attempting to make sense of how the military shipped Bacillus anthrax spores that were evidently live from one of its offices to more than twelve labs over the United States.

“We have a team at the [military] lab to determine what may have led to this incident,” says CDC spokesman Jason McDonald. In addition, he says, the agency is working with health officials in nine states to make sure the potentially live samples are safely disposed of and the labs affected are decontaminated.

So far it shows up no one has been sickened or killed from the effects of Bacillus anthrax.

The Bacillus anthrax spores were sent from the Army’s Dugway Proving Ground in Utah to 18 labs around the country. The specimens, which the military says were delivered by commercial carriers, were for utilization in figuring out if the new system of identifying the bacillus and different other organisms will work as expected. However, one lab in Maryland found that a few spores in its Bacillus anthax test were still alive. It reported the incident to the CDC late Friday night.

The episode is not really something to worry about, however not by any stretch of the imagination surprising, says Paul Keim, a researcher at Northern Arizona University who studies Bacillus anthrax.

“One of the things that can happen is that they set it up, and they do it, and they find out later that it only kills 99.99 percent,” Keim says. That’s more than enough if you’re killing 100 spores: “But if you’re doing it to 10 billion spores,” he says, “you’re going to have some escapes.”

The Army office destroyed the Bacillus anthrax with radiation, which should render Bacillus anthrax spores dead. Clearly, Keim says, something turned out wrong: Maybe they didn’t do it long enough to kill everything.

“One of the things that can happen is that they set it up, and they do it, and they find out later that it only kills 99.99 percent,” Keim says. That’s more than enough if you’re killing 100 spores: “But if you’re doing it to 10 billion spores,” he says, “you’re going to have some escapes.”

“If just a few spores were still alive in each of the samples sent out”  Keim says, “then they probably aren’t dangerous. It takes a lot of anthrax bacteria to make people sick”, he says. “Nevertheless”, he wonders “why the Army lab failed to notice that some spores in the samples were still alive. Testing should be routine before shipments.”

The CDC has had its own issues with Bacillus anthrax. A year ago, the office discovered that many of 75 workers in its labs may have been exposed on the grounds that the spores were not properly killed.

Image: http://upload.wikimedia.org/

Source: http://www.ktoo.org/2015/05/29/cdc-investigates-live-anthrax-shipments/

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