FDA Just Found Even More Vials of Diseases in a Forgotten Storage Room

So remember how scientists found unapproved vials of smallpox in a forgotten storage room a few weeks ago? Turns out, they weren't quite finished yet. Now, officials have revealed they've actually uncovered over 300 vials of pathogens including dengue, influenza, and spotted fever. Whoops.

The Washington Post is reporting that the discovery, which included 327 vials of dangerous pathogens in total, came from the same small-pox-loaded storage room that had been forgotten for nearly 50 years. And while the smallpox is still the most unsettling of the uncovered diseases, these additional finds aren't helping our peace of mind.


Best estimates place the vial's origins between 1946 and 1964 "when standards for work with and storage of biological specimens were very different from those used today." In a statement, Peter Marks, deputy director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, explained:

The reasons why these samples went unnoticed for this long is something that we're actively trying to understand. Our goal is to understand what happened and take the appropriate actions to make sure something like this never happens again.

At this time, 32 of the samples have already been destroyed while 300 have been shipped off to the Department of Homeland Security's National Bioforensic Analysis Center.


Thus far, none of the samples have showed any signs of leakage, and there's no evidence to imply that anyone's been exposed to the pathogens themselves. Still, we recommend staying as far away from that storage as possible. Or, better yet—all storage rooms. Trust no one. [ The Washington Post]

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Vials Full of Smallpox Were Just Found In an Unapproved Lab

Well, this is disconcerting. According to an announcement today from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), vials of the smallpox virus were found in a lab in Maryland that was not only unapproved to be handling the live pathogens—it was unequipped.

Though we've eradicated smallpox, the disease is so wildly infectious that it qualifies as a bioterrorism threat, meaning we keep it around just in case we ever need a new vaccine. What's more, only two labs in the entire world are legally permitted to handle the stuff: The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Atlanta headquarters and the VECTOR Institute in Russia. In other words, not the NIH's Bethesda, Maryland campus.


While it's currently unclear how long these deadly smallpox vials (which violate at 35-year-old international agreement) have been hiding out, according to CDC spokesman Tom Skinner, the boxes holding them may date back to the 1950s. So how exactly are we just now coming across the highly illicit vials? According to ABC News:

Scientists found six freeze-dried vials labeled as containing variola – the virus that causes smallpox – and 10 other vials with unclear labeling information in a cold storage room that is owned by the Food and Drug Administration on the NIH's Bethesda campus while preparing for the laboratory's upcoming move to FDA's main campus, according to Dr. Steven Monroe, who directs the CDC's division of high consequence pathogens and pathology.

The vials are currently being tested to see if any of the contents are still infectious, after which they'll all be destroyed. Hopefully, that'll be the last we see of any misplaced smallpox.


But according to Dr. Steven Monroe, who directs the CDC's division of high consequence pathogens and pathology, "We can't say with 100 percent certainty there are no other vials like this." Great. [ABC News]

Image: Flickr/Sanofi Pasteur