News on Wellness

11 members dismissed from biosecurity panel in the aftermath of anthrax scandal

Two days after federal health officials released details of an investigation into the mishandling of anthrax samples by scientists at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 11 eminent scientists have been dismissed from a 23-member government advisory panel.

The investigation has revealed more safety breaches, prompting concerns over handling dangerous microbes by CDC’s other labs.
11 members dismissed from biosecurity panel in the aftermath of anthrax scandal
In one newly disclosed incident, CDC scientists contaminated samples of low-pathogenic bird flu viruses with a highly pathogenic strain. Shipped to a Department of Agriculture lab in March, the viruses killed all the exposed chickens.

A hearing on the CDC’s biosafety lapses is scheduled to be held on Wednesday by a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“Add these to the long list of questions we have about how biosecurity is being managed,” said Committee Chairman Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican. “Why hasn’t the panel met in years, and why is now the time to dismiss nearly half the experts on this panel tasked with advising the administration on biosecurity?”

According to one of the dismissed board members, it was a surprising decision to purge virtually all of the people with experience of the H5N1 debate and experts known for communicating openly on biosafety issues.

Among those excluded from the panel are Dr. Arturo Casadevall of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, who called for “a clear scientific rationale” for studies that enable pathogens to be more deadly or contagious than they are in nature; and microbiologist Paul Keim of Northern Arizona State University, who played a crucial role in investigating the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people and infected another 17.

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