Questions raised on lab security at USF

A University of South Florida medical researcher at the USF Center for Biological Defense and Global Health Infectious Disease Research in Temple Terrace, Florida, was found dead in her hotel room on November 15.

Chitra Chauhan is thought to have ingested potassium cyanide in a suicide attempt. The nature of Chauhan’s work and the manner of her death has turned the private act into a public spectacle, according to 2.TBO.com.

The USF Center for Biological Defense and Global Health Infectious Disease Research is housed at the south end of campus and was created after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to study bioterrorism and emerging infections.

Security in the research park is tight because much of the work there is conducted by private companies working for the Department of Defense.

It remains unclear how Chauhan obtained the deadly agent.

"We do know obviously it can be potentially very dangerous and deadly," Mike Dunn, a Temple Terrace police spokesman, said, according to 2.TBO.com. “Nobody at this point seems to know where or how she got that."

Chauhan stumbled out of her hotel room on the night of November 15 and told two guests she had ingested cyanide. The wife and mother of a three-year old was pronounced dead two hours later. A small amount of the substance was found on a table in her room.

Temple Terrace fire officials evacuated 75 people in the Extended Stay America hotel and later conducted exams on first-responders who were called to the scene. Guests were sent to other hotels until the next morning, when a hazmat team cleaned the area.