You’re Safe-ish from Anthrax, For Now

A microbiologist at Life Sciences Test Facility at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, works in a specialized airtight enclosure designed for use with deadly agents.

Douglas C. Pizac/AP file photo

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A microbiologist at Life Sciences Test Facility at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, works in a specialized airtight enclosure designed for use with deadly agents.

Pentagon investigation into accidental anthrax shipments blames bad processes for killing spores.

On May 22, a commercial lab informed the Pentagon that the Defense Department had accidently shipped it live anthrax. The announcement set off investigations and the monitoring of 86 labs and 21 people (15 Defense Department employees, six not) in eight countries including the United States. Yesterday, the Pentagon released its comprehensive review report, which blames the debacle on poorly designed procedures for killing anthrax.

“DoD personnel appear to have followed their own protocols correctly,” the report says. “However, the committee found inherent deficiencies in protocols for three phases in the production of inactive spores that could lead to non-sterile products: 1) radiation dosing, 2) viability testing, and 3) aseptic operations (contamination prevention). These deficiencies and other factors contributed to the establishment of protocols that do not completely or permanently sterilize these samples.” (The Daily Beast’s Nancy Youssef previewed that conclusion in an article earlier this month.)

RelatedDOD’s anthrax review dashboard

The review “taught us lessons we needed to learn, and identified institutional and procedural failures we need urgently to address,” Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said. “We are shocked by these failures. … DoD takes full responsibility for these failures, and we are implementing changes and recommending the establishment of procedures, processes and protocols that will prevent such a biohazard safety failure does not happen again.” 

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