Report reveals 395 select agent incidents between 2003 and 2009

U.S. government laboratories experienced 395 incidents in which selected agents could have potentially been released between 2003 and 2009, a new report reveals.

A new National Research Council report said that despite the number of incidents, only seven related infections were reported. The accidents, which include animal bites and needle sticks, are mentioned only briefly in an NRC report on a risk assessment proposed for an Army biodefense lab to be constructed at Fort Detrick, Maryland, according to CIDRAP News.

"Seven LAIs [laboratory-acquired infections] were reported to CDC; four infections involved Brucella melitensis, two involved Francisella tularensis, and one involved an unspecified Coccidioides species.” the NRC report concluded, CIDRAP News reports.

The report does not expand on the outcomes of the infections, but says that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to publish an analysis of the events.

The CDC confirmed that the agency will publish a report next spring on potential select agent releases, but would not give more details on the events mentioned in the NRC report, according to CIDRAP News.

The NRC report deals mainly with the Army’s proposed risk-assessment plan for the Medical Countermeasures Test and Evaluation facility planned for Fort Detrick. Researchers at the facility will be expected to develop new vaccines and therapies for Category A agents, such as F. tularensis.

The NRC committee that reviewed the plans for the risk-assessment declared that the Army’s methodology was not “sufficiently robust” to assist the Army in designing a facility that would reduce the risk of potential exposures to select agents. The report references the CDC data on potential releases in support of its assertion.