A Pentagon investigation into the shipment of live anthrax spores to researchers in the US and seven other countries has concluded that protocols to inactive the bacteria were deficient, Reuters reported.
“By any measure this was a massive institutional failure with a potentially dangerous biotoxin,” US Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work was quoted as saying at a news conference Thursday.
The probe into the shipments of live anthrax, which were first discovered in late May, uncovered no single root cause for the problem.
However, officials found that ineffective protocols plus the practice of inactivating large batches of anthrax at a single facility had led to the problem, Work said as he released an investigation report.
The probe found that the broader scientific community lacked technical information to guide the development of effective protocols for inactivating anthrax spores.
As a result, four Defense Department labs created their own set of protocols.
At one facility, Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, the doses of radiation failed to sterilize the anthrax spores, and testing done afterward failed to detect the live spores, the report said.
The investigation found that live spores were sent from Dugway to labs in 20 states and the District of Columbia, plus Japan, Britain, South Korea, Australia, Canada, Italy and Germany.
“This was a failure that the Department of Defense is taking full responsibility for and we need to … establish procedures that will make sure this won’t happen again,” Work said.
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