Forgotten Smallpox Vials Found In Lab Clear-Out: More Found Update

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Forgotten Smallpox Vials Found In Lab Clear-Out: More Found Update

Update: According to information published by Wired, the smallpox vials were among a consignment of 327 vials, some of which contained infectious diseases. The full statement from the FDA is as follows:

The investigation found 12 boxes containing a total of 327 carefully packaged vials labeled with names of various biological agents such as dengue, influenza, Q fever, and rickettsia. Upon the discovery of these vials on July 1, 2014, FDA employees followed standard protocol and turned them all over to the appropriate NIH safety program officials, who in turn transferred them to the appropriate investigative agencies, as per standard protocols.

As announced on July 8, 2014, six vials labeled "variola" (the causative agent of smallpox) along with ten other samples with unclear labeling were transported safely and securely with the assistance of federal and local law enforcement agencies in a government aircraft to CDC's high-containment facility in Atlanta. In addition, 32 samples were destroyed following inventory at the NIH facility, including 28 labeled as normal tissue and four labeled as "vaccinia," the virus used to make the smallpox vaccine. To be clear, vaccinia does not cause smallpox. These vials represented no value to forensic sciences and were destroyed according to standard protocols.

The remaining 279 biological samples were then transferred by the investigating agencies to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's National Bioforensic Analysis Center for safeguarding. There were no smallpox samples included in this transfer. The FDA received confirmatory information about the samples yesterday, thus permitting public disclosure of this additional information.

Further announcements from the NIH go on to clarify that there was no evidence that anyone was exposed to these agents. The collection was probably assembled between 1946 and 1964, when standards of collection and storage were very different from today.

"We have developed a plan of action for the conduct of this search," says Doctor Francis Collins of the NIH, outlining a plan of action after the discovery. "It requires investigators to examine all freezers, refrigerators, cold rooms, storage shelves, and cabinets, as well as all other areas of storage such as offices associated with laboratories, to be sure that there are no further examples of potentially harmful materials that are being improperly stored."

Source: Wired

"The vials appear to date from the 1950s," says the CDC. "Upon discovery, the vials were immediately secured in a CDC-registered select agent containment laboratory in Bethesda."

During a routine clear-out of a FDA storage area at a National Institute of Health research lab at Bethesda, Maryland, "employees discovered vials labelled 'variola,' commonly known as smallpox, in an unused portion of a storage room," says the Center for Disease Control. It is not yet known whether the smallpox, kept in six glass vials in a cardboard box, is viable. Tests are being carried out, and will take two weeks to complete, after which the samples will be destroyed.

Smallpox, declared eradicated in 1979, is one of the most virulent infectious diseases mankind has ever dealt with. It's estimated to have been responsible for 300-500 million deaths during the 20th Century alone; it kills one in three infected. There are supposed to be only two high security labs keeping a stock of the disease, one in Russia's Novosibirsk State Research Centre of Virology and Biotechnology, the other at CDC Atlanta.

The FBI is trying to find out how the samples were prepared and eventually stored at the Food and Drug Administration lab. The vials seem to date from the 1950s, and the lab was transferred from the NIH to the FDA in 1972. However the building itself wasn't built until the 1960s, which begs the question where the samples were before they went to the lab.

Both labs authorized to hold smallpox take extreme precautions with their stock; the last known case, in Britain in 1978, occurred when a lab accident infected a university photographer who subsequently died. The photographer wasn't even in the same room as the disease, but in a lab above, and was infected via the ventilation system. Scientists who work with smallpox wear full body suits, including gloves and goggles, and shower with strong disinfectant before leaving the lab. It's been suggested that the current stock should be destroyed, but so far the prevailing view has been that it might yet be needed to research better treatments and vaccines.

While it was once routine to have a smallpox vaccination, the treatment proved to have serious side effects in a small percentage of the population. As a consequence, in the US the vaccination program was abandoned in 1972, since at that point the potential consequences of vaccination were more worrying than the disease. There was a period from 2002 to 2004 when military and some civilian health care workers received vaccination due to the potential threat of a bioterrorist attack, but apart from that small pool the majority in the US have no immunity.

According to Dr. William Schaffner, infectious disease specialist working at Vanderbilt University "every single research lab in the world was asked to scour their facilities and submit all specimens for accounting and destruction." Dr Schaffner finds it "seems curious beyond belief" that these vials escaped destruction.

The full CDC statement concerning the discovery can be found here.

Source: Guardian

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I always think that if humanity causes the end of the world, it will be through a Monty Python-esque series of events caused by a combination of incompetence and laziness. That someone has found smallpox in the federal equivalent of the gap behind the sofa only reinforces this theory.

This happens in labs all the time. Samples go missing or are not properly catalogued in the first place. I work in a lab and have dug out all sorts of weird crap. However none of it would be on the danger level of this stuff. That could cause a potential pandemic in the U.S. so I imagine if the person who is responsible is even still alive he will be getting a very serious talking to from the FBI.

Smallpox eradication is one of the few things humanity has to be proud of. It's nice to be reminded of it.

So you thought Bethesda games are full of bugs... Now they'll come with smallpox.

Wondering how they'll pin the blame on Obama for this one...

OT: I think I read another story a while back about the US government keeping their nuclear launch codes on floppy discs. Why is it the world powers can never keep tabs on their world ending experiments?

Presumably they were trying to find a way to make smallpox taste better.

Respect to the person that found it. If it was me I'd probably fling it away from me, risking a vial breaking.

Yeah, this sort of thing happens all the time.

On the plus side, the original vaccine for smallpox was using a similar disease, cowpox. The body gets resistance to both after being exposed to it. Only, cowpox isn't remotely as dangerous, and is still around.

If there was another smallpox outbreak, you can just expose people to cowpox again. Cowpox isn't nice, but beats the alternative.

Gearhead mk2:
Wondering how they'll pin the blame on Obama for this one...

OT: I think I read another story a while back about the US government keeping their nuclear launch codes on floppy discs. Why is it the world powers can never keep tabs on their world ending experiments?

Eh, the codes on the permissive action locks were all set to zero. Though, that was because the people with the nuclear devices thought their security was perfectly fine as it was, but were forced to put codes on them as well by other people upstairs.

Distorted Stu:
Just putting this here...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOHYS2BBKY8

The scary part about this is that an outbreak of smallpox could easily have this kind of effect today.

Gearhead mk2:
Wondering how they'll pin the blame on Obama for this one...

OT: I think I read another story a while back about the US government keeping their nuclear launch codes on floppy discs. Why is it the world powers can never keep tabs on their world ending experiments?

Obama will just counter with blaming Bush for it and the score will remain even.

OT: Humanity, are we truly intelligent or just fooling ourselves so we don't realize we're absolute morons one step away from eradicating ourselves with our mentally handicapped flailing about. Maybe the smartest ones among us are the ones who are considered retarded. Ignorance sometimes seems to be so much more blissful than "knowing" whats going on.

Gearhead mk2:
Wondering how they'll pin the blame on Obama for this one...

OT: I think I read another story a while back about the US government keeping their nuclear launch codes on floppy discs. Why is it the world powers can never keep tabs on their world ending experiments?

Oh no the targeting and launch control was on 8" floppy disks ( http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2014/04/60-minutes-shocked-to-find-8-inch-floppies-drive-nuclear-deterrent/ ) the launch codes were set to 00000000 for 20 years ( http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/12/launch-code-for-us-nukes-was-00000000-for-20-years/ ).

There has been a running theory that there are hundreds of these vials out there and that was one of the justifications to maintain the existing samples in case there was an outbreak.

If they had been found by a madman.... holy shit I don't even want to think about that :/

Hixy:
This happens in labs all the time. Samples go missing or are not properly catalogued in the first place. I work in a lab and have dug out all sorts of weird crap. However none of it would be on the danger level of this stuff. That could cause a potential pandemic in the U.S. so I imagine if the person who is responsible is even still alive he will be getting a very serious talking to from the FBI.

So much this, this week we found a couple of four year old mouldy envelopes in the back of one of our fridges. The weird thing is that fridge apparently wasn't in the lab in 2010. Then there's the amount of 'mystery tubes' we find in people's frozen bacteria stocks.

You know what would make me laugh? If the vials were actually 'merely' mislabelled, and never contained smallpox to begin with.

I also wonder whether it would still be viable after 60 or so years in an unspecified storage room. Smallpox isn't a particularly environmentally durable virus, but on the other hand I don't know how virus samples are stored long term.

Megalodon:

Hixy:
This happens in labs all the time. Samples go missing or are not properly catalogued in the first place. I work in a lab and have dug out all sorts of weird crap. However none of it would be on the danger level of this stuff. That could cause a potential pandemic in the U.S. so I imagine if the person who is responsible is even still alive he will be getting a very serious talking to from the FBI.

So much this, this week we found a couple of four year old mouldy envelopes in the back of one of our fridges. The weird thing is that fridge apparently wasn't in the lab in 2010. Then there's the amount of 'mystery tubes' we find in people's frozen bacteria stocks.

You know what would make me laugh? If the vials were actually 'merely' mislabelled, and never contained smallpox to begin with.

I also wonder whether it would still be viable after 60 or so years in an unspecified storage room. Smallpox isn't a particularly environmentally durable virus, but on the other hand I don't know how virus samples are stored long term.

Im in a chemistry lab so usually samples are just powders or oils. The bad reagents are all in the presses so its fine. I found loads of unlabelled bottles it drives me nuts, I dont know why people do it if they went to the trouble of preparing it. I don't know much about viruses but I assume they won't be taking a chance and burning all of that in a very big fire after testing :)

Stuff like this is why the recently suggested "let's destroy the last two known samples" idea is a bad one. Sure, they can be used to fuck us all over but the countries keeping them locked up already have enough nukes to fuck us all over a thousand times if they wanted.

is smallpox ready for round two?

bring it on motherfucker!

nathan-dts:
Smallpox eradication is one of the few things humanity has to be proud of. It's nice to be reminded of it.

we have to be proud of countless of things, mankind's accomplishments easily overshadow their wrongdoings

There are supposed to be only two high security labs keeping a stock of the disease, one in Russia's Novosibirsk State Research Centre of Virology and Biotechnology, the other at CDC Atlanta.

Oh, good to know that the US and Russia have something that's probably even worse than a nuke.

It's a great idea to keep a disease that's killed so many, especially after it's reported to have been all but eradicated. They should make more vials of it and distribute it around the world, just to ensure we always have some in case we need a deadly, highly infectious plague.

Maybe this is just my imagination running wild, but I can just see the destroying of the vials as a ruse, and instead the smallpox will be re-purposed as a biological weapon.

Talaris:
Maybe this is just my imagination running wild, but I can just see the destroying of the vials as a ruse, and instead the smallpox will be re-purposed as a biological weapon.

It was the vaccinia virus that was destroyed, not the smallpox virus. Vaccinia virus makes the vaccine (hence the name) but cannot cause the disease on its own.

The smallpox vials were sent to the high-containment CDC labs in Atlanta, where they already have smallpox stores. So if they really wanted to turn them into weapons, then they could have whenever they wanted to. But keep in mind that Russia also has a lab which stores smallpox and I really, really don't think we want to start a second cold war with bioweapons instead of nuclear ones...

By the way, I don't know if it's still being done, but I received a smallpox vaccine in the US Air Force prior to deploying in 2006, so those dates in the article seem a bit off. It gave me a scar that looks kind of like a cigarette burn.

Scars Unseen:
By the way, I don't know if it's still being done, but I received a smallpox vaccine in the US Air Force prior to deploying in 2006, so those dates in the article seem a bit off. It gave me a scar that looks kind of like a cigarette burn.

Nope. The general population vaccination program for Smallpox ended some time in the 1980s. Basically, if Smallpox were to break out in the US, the only people it won't affect are you folks in the military and everyone 36 and over. Basically two entire generations (Children and young adults) will suffer majorly if Smallpox ever returns.

InsanityRequiem:

Scars Unseen:
By the way, I don't know if it's still being done, but I received a smallpox vaccine in the US Air Force prior to deploying in 2006, so those dates in the article seem a bit off. It gave me a scar that looks kind of like a cigarette burn.

Nope. The general population vaccination program for Smallpox ended some time in the 1980s. Basically, if Smallpox were to break out in the US, the only people it won't affect are you folks in the military and everyone 36 and over. Basically two entire generations (Children and young adults) will suffer majorly if Smallpox ever returns.

I'm not sure what that was about. I'm talking about the part of the article that said that the military got the vaccine between 2002 and 2004. Since I got my vaccine 2 years after that, the dates are off.

holy shit theres more, is like bio-terrorist christmas

good thing they contacted the authorities

KiKiweaky:
If they had been found by a madman.... holy shit I don't even want to think about that :/

I dunno, wouldn't that go sort of like...?

"Bwa ha ha ha haaa! With these vials, I will re-introduce Small Pox to the world! ...which they have a viable cure for...and the CDC will clamp down on faster than you can say 'We tend not to fuck around'. Dammit, I didn't think this through!"

Granted, on the short term, that would be terrible, but it'd be the same as fighting the Robot Master boss rush at the end of a Megaman game. We already know how to beat it and have the tools at our fingertips.

FalloutJack:

KiKiweaky:
If they had been found by a madman.... holy shit I don't even want to think about that :/

I dunno, wouldn't that go sort of like...?

"Bwa ha ha ha haaa! With these vials, I will re-introduce Small Pox to the world! ...which they have a viable cure for...and the CDC will clamp down on faster than you can say 'We tend not to fuck around'. Dammit, I didn't think this through!"

Granted, on the short term, that would be terrible, but it'd be the same as fighting the Robot Master boss rush at the end of a Megaman game. We already know how to beat it and have the tools at our fingertips.

Fun fact: There is no cure for smallpox. There is a vaccine. It prevents us from getting smallpox. If you actually get smallpox you're most likely screwed. Considering that the vaccinations stopped after it was declared extinct it could actually be pretty bad if it was done right.

Yopaz:

FalloutJack:

KiKiweaky:
If they had been found by a madman.... holy shit I don't even want to think about that :/

I dunno, wouldn't that go sort of like...?

"Bwa ha ha ha haaa! With these vials, I will re-introduce Small Pox to the world! ...which they have a viable cure for...and the CDC will clamp down on faster than you can say 'We tend not to fuck around'. Dammit, I didn't think this through!"

Granted, on the short term, that would be terrible, but it'd be the same as fighting the Robot Master boss rush at the end of a Megaman game. We already know how to beat it and have the tools at our fingertips.

Fun fact: There is no cure for smallpox. There is a vaccine. It prevents us from getting smallpox. If you actually get smallpox you're most likely screwed. Considering that the vaccinations stopped after it was declared extinct it could actually be pretty bad if it was done right.

My statement is still valid. It's terrible, but we actually know what to do with it.

FalloutJack:

Yopaz:

FalloutJack:

I dunno, wouldn't that go sort of like...?

"Bwa ha ha ha haaa! With these vials, I will re-introduce Small Pox to the world! ...which they have a viable cure for...and the CDC will clamp down on faster than you can say 'We tend not to fuck around'. Dammit, I didn't think this through!"

Granted, on the short term, that would be terrible, but it'd be the same as fighting the Robot Master boss rush at the end of a Megaman game. We already know how to beat it and have the tools at our fingertips.

Fun fact: There is no cure for smallpox. There is a vaccine. It prevents us from getting smallpox. If you actually get smallpox you're most likely screwed. Considering that the vaccinations stopped after it was declared extinct it could actually be pretty bad if it was done right.

My statement is still valid. It's terrible, but we actually know what to do with it.

No, it is not valid unless you lack important knowledge on vaccination difficulties, but I won't go into details there.

However the part where your point loses any validity is the part where you said there is a cure for it. There is not by means a cure for smallpox which makes your statement incorrect, which makes it by definition WRONG. You can continue to maintain your stance and be wrong and stubborn or you can gracefully admit that you stand corrected.

Yopaz:

FalloutJack:

Yopaz:

Fun fact: There is no cure for smallpox. There is a vaccine. It prevents us from getting smallpox. If you actually get smallpox you're most likely screwed. Considering that the vaccinations stopped after it was declared extinct it could actually be pretty bad if it was done right.

My statement is still valid. It's terrible, but we actually know what to do with it.

No, it is not valid unless you lack important knowledge on vaccination difficulties, but I won't go into details there.

However the part where your point loses any validity is the part where you said there is a cure for it. There is not by means a cure for smallpox which makes your statement incorrect, which makes it by definition WRONG. You can continue to maintain your stance and be wrong and stubborn or you can gracefully admit that you stand corrected.

Tell you what, I'll stand corrected if you admit copping an attitude to get me there.

I meant that we have more than zero experience handling the small pox, because we do. It's not a mystery ailment anymore.

Captcha: Play a game

I got an idea. I'll run this on that steam game I got. I'll call it Nu-Pox. If I win, you're right.

FalloutJack:

I got an idea. I'll run this on that steam game I got. I'll call it Nu-Pox. If I win, you're right.

No I got an idea. Answer me this: Is there a cure for smallpox?

If the answer is no then you are wrong.

The answer IS no. You are wrong and you refuse to admit it. Not knowing or understanding something is OK. Refusing to educate yourself is not. If ignorance gives you bliss, keep going, but don't EVER present your ignorance as a fact.

Yopaz:

Fun fact: There is no cure for smallpox. There is a vaccine. It prevents us from getting smallpox. If you actually get smallpox you're most likely screwed. Considering that the vaccinations stopped after it was declared extinct it could actually be pretty bad if it was done right.

To be more accurate, there's no known cure for smallpox. However, the vaccine can still be administered after infection to reduce the severity of symptoms. Plus there's evidence that existing antivirals would prove effective against the smallpox virus, medicine being somewhat more advanced now than it was in the 1970s. But there's thankfully not been the need to test the hypothesis.

http://jac.oxfordjournals.org/content/54/1/1.full

Yopaz:
Zoop

Megalodon:

Yopaz:

Fun fact: There is no cure for smallpox. There is a vaccine. It prevents us from getting smallpox. If you actually get smallpox you're most likely screwed. Considering that the vaccinations stopped after it was declared extinct it could actually be pretty bad if it was done right.

To be more accurate, there's no known cure for smallpox. However, the vaccine can still be administered after infection to reduce the severity of symptoms. Plus there's evidence that existing antivirals would prove effective against the smallpox virus, medicine being somewhat more advanced now than it was in the 1970s. But there's thankfully not been the need to test the hypothesis.

http://jac.oxfordjournals.org/content/54/1/1.full

This was pretty much the point I was making. You didn't have to make a big thing about it with your attitude. Now chill out or I'll release Nu-Pox to the world (in my game).

Megalodon:

Yopaz:

Fun fact: There is no cure for smallpox. There is a vaccine. It prevents us from getting smallpox. If you actually get smallpox you're most likely screwed. Considering that the vaccinations stopped after it was declared extinct it could actually be pretty bad if it was done right.

To be more accurate, there's no known cure for smallpox. However, the vaccine can still be administered after infection to reduce the severity of symptoms. Plus there's evidence that existing antivirals would prove effective against the smallpox virus, medicine being somewhat more advanced now than it was in the 1970s. But there's thankfully not been the need to test the hypothesis.

http://jac.oxfordjournals.org/content/54/1/1.full

Actually, antivirals MIGHT be effective, but they don't know for sure. It's hardly a cure once the disease has been allowed to present itself it's too late for a vaccine. Also how quickly do you think doctors are to recognize a disease that is extinct considering that there are several less dangerous diseases that present similar symptoms?

It would be like calling the cops on a triceratops rummaging in your backyard. If it's true then it would be sensational. You also have to wait for the vaccine to be made, distributed and administered. Vaccines are not of global use due to the various ways the cell surface may change in terms of protein complexes presented to the immune system. It's even a possibility that the classic vaccines aren't as useful now as they were before due to these changes. Making vaccines theoretically easy, but in the real world it is not.

FalloutJack:

This was pretty much the point I was making. You didn't have to make a big thing about it with your attitude. Now chill out or I'll release Nu-Pox to the world (in my game).

Yes, but your point demonstrates lack of knowledge in immunology so it is in no way valid. However I understand where you're coming from here. You're wrong by any definition of wrong and you don't want admit that. deny facts all you want, I'm out.

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