A dangerous, often deadly, type of bacteria that lives in soil and water has been released from a high-security laboratory at the Tulane National Primate Research Center in Louisiana. Officials say there is no risk to the public. Yet despite weeks of investigation by multiple federal and state agencies, the cause of the release and the extent of the contamination remain unknown, according to interviews and records obtained by USA TODAY.
The incident has raised concerns that bacteria from the lab may have contaminated the facility's grounds and though initial, limited tests didn't detect it, some officials are pressing behind the scenes for more action, records show. The safety breach at Tulane's massive lab complex 35 miles north of New Orleans is the latest in a recent series of significant biosafety accidents at some of the most prestigious laboratories in the country where research is performed on bacteria and viruses that are classified as potential bioterror agents.
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"Human error is always the first explanation you should consider for a laboratory accident," Ebright said. "The easiest way to transfer something from one place where it's supposed to be, to another where it isn't supposed to be is by a worker moving from one place to the other."
Sloppy biosafety practices can result in pathogens being tracked out of labs on shoes, coats, gloves, hands or other materials that weren't properly sterilized before being removed, he said.
Deadly bacteria release sparks concern at Louisiana lab