, the USDA, and the CDC

I am saddened to see the level of oversight of these dangerous experiments at federal institutions.

Hiroshi Nikaido(nhiroshi@berkeley.edu)
Jul 17, 2005

In all the mess surrounding the infection of a laboratory worker with Escherichia coli O157:H7 at a USDA laboratory,12 I am saddened to see the level of oversight of these dangerous experiments at federal institutions. I work at a university, where all experiments involving potential human or animal pathogens must be approved by the institutional biosafety committee, which is true of any institutions that receive National Institutes of Health or National Science Foundation support. I am sure that the experiment in question never would have been approved in my own university, where I have been the interim chair of the institutional biosafety committee for the past two years.

We are extremely disturbed by the manner in which our colleague, Ru-ching Hsia, has been portrayed and treated by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention following the life threatening laboratory acquired infection that occurred subsequent to an experiment that was...

As a visiting professor to a Japanese university in 1996, who witnessed the loss of human lives due to the outbreak of Escherichia coli O157 infections and the resulting social and economic damages, I became alarmed by your news articles of June 15 and June 2112 detailing multiple E. coli O157 infections that appear to have occurred in a USDA laboratory. It is disappointing that the report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, after implicating the first victim in the infection, fails to identify the source of the infection. The fact that another infection occurred four months after the victim left the lab indicates that it was likely a persisting problem independent from the first victim. The controversies raised by the CDC report and the concern that the problem, if not fixed, can be a threat to public health argue that the incident should be carefully investigated by an independent panel.

One wonders, with the expansion of research using dangerous organisms, will there also be an increase of accidental infections? As a research scientist who works with Biosafety level 2 organisms, I realize the importance of adhering to safety regulations, but I don't wish for more paperwork – just stricter enforcement of the regulations and penalties.