Vial containing biological weapon goes missing at lab
The vial, which was stored at the Galveston National Laboratory on UTMB's campus, contains less than one-quarter of one teaspoon of an infectious disease. The vial is normally stored in a locked freezer meant to safely handle biological material, Chron.com reports.
The vial was found to be missing during a routine internal inspection when officials found that the vial, which contains the Guanarito virus, could not be accounted for.
Guanarito is considered an emerging disease that is prioritized by the federal government because of its potential to be used as a bioweapon, according to Chron.com.
After officials discovered that one of the five vials containing the virus was missing, the CDC was notified and a search began, but the vial has not yet been located.
According to UTMB, security at the facility was not breached and there is no indication of any wrongdoing. Scott Weaver, the lab's scientific director, said that the vial may have stuck to a glove and fallen on the floor of the lab somewhere.
"The only way it could pose a risk is if it were stolen and that's unlikely," Weaver said, Chron.com reports. "We don't think anything that happened this past week endangers the community. We think this is an error that any one facility is inevitable and we are going to improve to prevent this in the future."
The virus was probably destroyed during the normal decontamination and cleaning process at the lab, officials believe, but the investigation will continue.