DOD: Live Anthrax Shipment Resulted From A ‘Massive Institutional Failure’

Plans to prevent anything like this from reoccurring, officials said, include working with CDC officials to standardize the handling of live B. anthracis.

A shipment of live-anthrax to a commercial laboratory has been narrowed down to one of four Department of Defense labs, according to Defense Secretary Bob Work. 

Work called the May shipment a “massive institutional failure,” and provided details on how DOD officials plan to prevent this type of event from occurring again. Part of those plans, he said, are to work with CDC officials to standardize the handling of live B. anthracis.

The Army’s labs at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, the Naval Medical Research Center and the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center all handle anthrax deactivation.

A review committee found the four labs had irradiated 149 batches of live anthrax spores and reported them inactivated and safe for testing since 2003. Fifty-three batches shipped outside of the DOD had been accounted for and destroyed. Regarding the remaining 96 batches to test, 33 were at Dugway, and 17 of those tested positive for live anthrax. 

Officials said no infections resulted in the lab workers, and they said, the anthrax was delivered in “low concentrations.”