Additional anthrax spores found at USAMRIID didn't escape lab

Apr 26, 2002 (CIDRAP News) – Nonpathogenic anthrax spores that were found in environmental sampling at the US Army Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) last weekend were in a contained laboratory, not a noncontained area as indicated previously, according to an Army spokesman.

A few pathogenic anthrax spores were found last week in a hallway, office, and locker area outside a biosafety level 3 lab at the Fort Detrick facility in Frederick, Md. After those areas were decontaminated, sampling was done at 800 sites in the building to look for any residual spores, according to USAMRIID spokesman Chuck Dasey.

That round of sampling revealed a few spores in the same areas where they had been found previously, and it also detected a few nonpathogenic spores outside containers in a biosafety level 2 lab, Dasey said. The spores were of the Sterne strain of anthrax, used to make vaccines, he said. Dasey previously had indicated the spores were in a noncontained area, but that was incorrect, he said.

The level 2 lab is in the same part of the building as, but not next to, a level 3 lab where a scientist on Apr 8 noticed a deposit on the outside of a flask containing an anthrax mixture, Dasey said. As reported earlier, that discovery triggered testing of employees and sampling of areas near the lab. Nasal swab testing showed that one employee who works in the level 3 lab had been exposed to anthrax.

Dasey said today that the areas where pathogenic spores were found a second time have been decontaminated again and resampled. "The last I heard, they were still working on the resampling process," he said.

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