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U.S. Restarts First Biothreat Shipments Suspended Over Lapses

Blue Ebola virus particles bud from an infected cell in a scanning electron micrograph. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday said it had restarted some biological shipments suspended following accidental transfers of potentially dangerous pathogen samples. Blue Ebola virus particles bud from an infected cell in a scanning electron micrograph. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday said it had restarted some biological shipments suspended following accidental transfers of potentially dangerous pathogen samples. (U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases photo)

A U.S. agency restarted the first biological shipments suspended after it mistakenly sent out potentially dangerous materials, the Washington Post reports.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday said its Clinical Tuberculosis Laboratory had begun sending neutralized bacteria to other agency sites with fewer protective measures. The move began to reverse a halt imposed on such transfers after two other CDC facilities mistakenly shipped compromised samples, prompting fears of possible infections from anthrax or avian influenza.

"The [tuberculosis] lab was not one of the two labs involved in recent incidents; those two labs remain closed," the center said in a statement.

The agency added that an in-house review panel has vetted the tuberculosis lab's sterilization strategy, which relies on a thermal process to kill bacteria before it is sent to lower-security locations for analysis.

"The internal working group continues its lab-by-lab review of safety procedures," the agency added in released comments. "No single set of procedures can be used for every lab, as different labs deal with different pathogens and do different kinds of work. Thus safeguards are tailored to each individual lab."

CDC spokesman Thomas Skinner said the center would aim to most quickly resume operations at laboratories with clear roles in serving patients and fighting critical disease threats, such as the Ebola and chikungunya viruses, the New York Times reported.

The agency also designated 11 independent experts to support CDC Director Thomas Frieden in efforts to reform safety precautions at federal laboratories.

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