- The Pentagon accidentally shipped live anthrax to as many as nine labs across the United States, the Defense Department confirmed to multiple news outlets Wednesday.
- Defense says there is "no known risk to the general public" from the mistaken shipments.
- The accident follows a string of anthrax accidents at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last summer that possibly exposed dozens of workers to the disease and forced one top official to resign.
A defense lab accidentally shipped live anthrax instead of dead anthrax
Fox News reported late Wednesday that a Utah defense lab mistakenly shipped the wrong version of the virus — a live one — to a lab in Maryland:
The material in question was prepared at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, as part of what was described as a "routine" research process. It was then sent out to Defense Department and commercial labs in nine states -- the shipments were supposed to include only inactive, or dead, anthrax when they were transferred.
"These were supposed to be dead spores anthrax, called AG-1," the defense official said.
But a private lab in Maryland, on May 22, informed the CDC that they thought the samples contained live anthrax. The CDC then informed the Defense Department. According to the Associated Press, the government has confirmed the Maryland lab got live spores, and it is suspected the others did as well, though not yet confirmed.
A Pentagon spokesperson told Fox: "There is no known risk to the general public, and there are no suspected or confirmed cases of anthrax infection in potentially exposed lab workers. The DoD lab was working as part of a DoD effort to develop a field-based test to identify biological threats in the environment."
Similar mistakes happened last summer at the CDC
The scientific research arm of the government experienced a similar mistake last year. On June 13, 2014, workers noticed that samples of anthrax that they thought were dead were indeed alive. They were samples at a lab responsible for killing live anthrax before giving it to labs with less strict safety protocols for further work.
Reuters later reported that workers had made a mistake and only waited 24 hours to check if the anthrax was sufficiently inactive — rather than the required 48 — before giving them to other laboratories. Nobody became sick from the possible exposer, but the director of the CDC lab that made the mistake resigned about a month later.