CDC defends its lab safety after report

CDC defends its lab safety after report
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is defending its safety standards after a USA Today article on its mishandling of dangerous pathogens. 

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The CDC said Tuesday, in a statement first reported by USA Today, that its labs had been referred to an inspector general for safety problems involving the handling of pathogens six times since 2003. 

Some of the instances involved not fully deactivating a substance in order to make it safe before sending it to another facility, and some involved pathogens being stored in unregistered locations at the CDC. 

Steve Monroe, the CDC’s associate director for Laboratory Science and Safety, said in an interview that five of the six instances were before 2011 and that the agency has stepped up its safety protocols since then. 

An incident in 2014 of mishandling Ebola also spurred change, he said. 

“We did realize that we had missed a bit of a pattern, but we have taken concrete steps to change that,” Monroe said. 

He said there is a new review board to oversee safety protocols and that the CDC has stepped up its procedures with new documentation requirements to make sure substances are inactivate before they are sent to other locations. 

He said that while CDC labs are in a small group that have been referred for repeated safety violations, that is a reflection of the higher volume of pathogens those labs handle. 

“The complexity and volume of the work we do is much greater,” Monroe said. 

He said the CDC works to “reduce risk as much as possible, but there will always be some risk because of the nature of the work that we do.”