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An investigation conducted by The Intercept has uncovered hundreds of accidents recorded at biolabs across the United States over the past eighteen years.
While many incidents did not result in harm, some led to scientists getting sick themselves, or exposing potential pandemic pathogens to society.
According to The Intercept, a review of over 5,500 pages of material obtained from the National Institutes of Health via a freedom of information request revealed a “litany of mishaps,” with some involving “deadly or debilitating viruses.”
In one case, a graduate researcher at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri was treating a mouse infected with the Chikungunya virus when the needle slipped and penetrated her skin through two layers of protective gloves. The prick did not draw blood, and as such, the student thought nothing of it and went about her day without mentioning it to her supervisors. Over the following days, she fell ill with the virus, and only then revealed what had happened in the lab.
Other cases involved infected test animals, usually rodents, escaping and running about the building, or test tubes being spilled. While the situations were typically dealt with before they could become dangerous, the possibility raised questions regarding how to ensure the safety of those in the lab and society at large.
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