CDC lifts restrictions on lab after safety scares

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is relaxing restrictions on moving dangerous substances at a high-security lab, weeks after a series of safety scares.

The CDC said Thursday that it had lifted a moratorium on transferring dangerous biological materials to a lab that conducts tests for tuberculosis. The facility will be allowed to begin transporting dead samples of tuberculosis to lower-level labs so scientists can test whether patients have drug-resistant strains of the disease.

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The agency had halted transferring any dangerous materials from all high-risk facilities after recent mishaps at labs involving live anthrax and the avian flu virus.

The move is the first sign the CDC is starting to relax its safety measures put in place after the recent anthrax scare. The agency said it is giving priority to relax the moratorium on transporting deadly pathogens for labs that are directly involved in diagnosing patients.

The agency also announced the formation of an external review board to assess safety procedures at its facilities.

“This group will provide advice and guidance to the CDC Director [Thomas Frieden] and CDC’s new Director of Laboratory Safety [Michael Bell],” the agency said.

The group includes researchers from academic institutions including Duke University, Stanford University and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

They are tasked with identifying safety issues at CDC labs and to recommend changes. The group is set to meet for the first time in early August to begin their review.

The agency did not provide a timeline when the moratorium would be lifted on other high-containment labs, and emphasized the two labs involved in the anthrax and avian flu scares are still closed.