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CDC Lifts Limits on One Lab After Anthrax Flub

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lifted restrictions on one of the high-level safety labs cut off after an incident last month in which live anthrax samples were mistakenly sent out, exposing dozens of staffers to the potentially deadly bacteria. CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden was called on the carpet before Congress after that incident, and another one in which a dangerous strain of bird flu virus was mixed with a more harmless strain and sent to another, unsuspecting lab. CDC says it’s appointed a panel of advisers to help it clean up its laboratory safety processes, and is now allowing transfers from one of several biosafety level (BSL) 2 and 3 labs. The opened BSL-3 lab tests and kills tuberculosis samples. The lab that shipped the anthrax by mistake remains closed. “The TB lab’s plan was reviewed and approved by each member of the internal working group; by Mike Bell, CDC’s new Director of Laboratory Safety; and by Dr. Frieden,” CDC said in a statement. Under new rules, each lab must show it has protocols for handling pathogens, that the protocols are being used, and that they are being used by appropriately trained and supervised individuals.

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The new external laboratory safety workgroup will work on better safety procedures for labs across the U.S., CDC says. It’s chaired by Joseph Kanabrocki, assistant dean for biosafety and associate professor of microbiology at the University of Chicago.

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-- Maggie Fox