An external group of 11 experts in research, laboratory science and biosafety have put together a report which was posted on CDC’s website this week. The report, consisting of 4 pages, was based on the investigation of CDC labs, surveys regarding the laboratory safety and meetings with the CDC staff.
The experts noticed that safety is not something which CDC is much concerned and that no measures were taken to provide safety across the enterprise. Moreover, most of the employees do not understand how the agency reacts to accidents and how the information about accidents is communicated outside the labs which were affected , to the larger agency community. The experts committee also drew attention to the fact that the agency may lose its credibility.
The advisory committee investigated CDC’s lab practices after two mishaps and other things that went wrong. One of the incidents happened in May, when the avian influenza samples were mistaken for the samples of the deadly H5N1 influenza virus and shipped to USDA (US Department of Agriculture) lab.
Another issue was the failure of proper sterilization. As a consequence dozens of workers from a bioterrorism lab were put at risk to the deadly anthrax virus. The lives of 80 employees were put at risk. In December a technician made a mistake and transported the wrong species of the deadly Ebola virus from an upper-level lab to a lower-level lab. The agency wasted time monitoring one of the workers in a laboratory for 21 days (incubation period) because he was suspected of a possible infection, but he did not test positive for Ebola, so he did not get sick.
The experts have also made some recommendations. They advised the company to provide their employees with an improved safety training, to ensure a better communication between the members of the staff and everywhere around the agency and to enhance protocols for quality control. A new role inside the agency to directly manage matters regarding consistent procedures was also recommended by the committee. Another piece of advice which CDC should follow is the provision of certification for transfers of samples from one lab to another of and the installation of cameras in the labs. Some of these recommendations have already started to be put into practice.
Image Source: CDC
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