CDC Seeks Safety Chief

In the wake of numerous biosafety breaches, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looks to hire a chief of laboratory safety.

Jan 2, 2015
Jef Akst

FLICKR, SEGURIDADBIOLOGICA.BLOGSLast week, a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) technician may have been exposed to Ebola after an agency lab transferred samples possibly containing live virus to another agency lab not equipped to handle them. The incident followed two separate safety breaches at the agency this summer, in which live samples of Bacillus anthracis were mistakenly shipped to ill-equipped labs, and samples of the highly pathogenic H5N1 were accidentally sent from the CDC’s influenza lab to a Department of Agriculture facility instead of samples of benign avian influenza virus. Now, the government agency is creating a new, high-level position in the form of a lab safety chief to oversee the handling of such deadly pathogens.

The position was first recommended after an internal investigation following the anthrax and bird flu incidents this summer, Reuters reported. Indeed, a search for the new hire—led by Rima Khabbaz, director of CDC’s Office of Infectious Diseases—is already underway, CDC spokeswoman Barbara Reynolds told the publication. “The person selected will be empowered to identify problems, establish plans to solve them, and hold programs throughout CDC accountable for follow-up,” Reynolds told Reuters in an e-mail.