Anthrax Biohazard Safety Fiasco: Pentagon ‘Mea Culpa’ Report

A recent Pentagon report meant to unveil how the U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground shipped live antrax –- by mistake -– to dozens of labs around the world, has not managed to identify a “root cause” for this problem.

The report released Thursday, instead of pinpointing a single reason, found that procedural errors likely caused the accident.

Pentagon’s Mea Culpa?

Anthrax Biohazard Safety Fiasco-

Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work called the Defense Department’s inadvertent delivery of live anthrax to labs “a massive institutional failure.”

Work said the review found that the procedures, processes and protocols used by four labs that handle anthrax “didn’t work.” The amount of radiation used, the lack of standardised set of operating procedures, the quality of the testing and possible contamination, were mentioned as contributing factors.

The 38-page report, found out that testing for live spores resulted inaccurate because the sample sizes were too small plus incubation periods between irradiation and testing too short.

Prior to shipment, labs must destroy anthrax with gamma radiation and culture inactivated bacteria to make sure no spores survive. However, according to Work, 17 out of 33 samples send from Dugway Proving Grounds lab in Utah tested positive for live anthrax. “Obviously, when over half of those anthrax batches that were presumed to be inactivated instead prove to contain live spores, we have a major problem,” Work said.

Lots of work ahead

According to the report, the low numbers of live spores found in inactivated DoD samples did not pose a risk to the general public. It also found that no individual or individuals are to blame as employees followed the established protocols at Dugway. Work announced that the Army will now conduct an internal investigation and that it is working to ensure all of its labs are safe.

Anthrax Biohazard Safety Fiasco--

Many are unhappy with the report

Work also warned that the number of labs, which received live anthrax might increase as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now carrying out its own investigations. Further tracing by the CDC has identified an additional 97 labs that received live specimens, bringing the total to 183 and that the facility failed to have effective and standardized procedures for killing anthrax with radiation.

Following release of the report, the House Armed Services Committee issued a statement saying they are “dissatisfied with the timeliness and the level of detail in this report”, as it fails to provide meaningful explanations and answer important questions.

When did all this start?

Beginning in May, the Pentagon noted that several shipments of the deadly virus were sent out from a lab at the Dugway Proving Grounds over the last several years. Those labs which reported having received “questionable anthrax samples” are in countries such as the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Canada, Italy and Germany as well as in the U.S.

According to the Pentagon, there have been no suspected or confirmed cases of anthrax infections connected to the shipments. Yet people who had direct contact with the spores were treated with antibiotics as a precaution. Anthrax spores can be potentially fatal if inhaled.

What do you think of anthrax and Pentagon’s report? Share your opinion in the comments section below.


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