The U.S. military’s live anthrax scandal widened on Tuesday as USA Today reports that more samples were shipped to three laboratories in Canada by a U.S. military lab. The news comes in the wake of last week’s disclosures that samples of the bacteria were mistakenly sent to 11 U.S. states and two other countries.
Two U.S. Defence Department officials, who wished to remain anonymous, said the samples sent to Canada came from the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, which is where the other samples in the case appear to trace back to as well.
The lab is responsible for inactivation and shipping of biological material commonly used in weapons.
Yet a Pentagon spokesperson said late Monday that the Pentagon had nothing to announce about the anthrax shipments.
So far reports have confirmed that 11 states had received “suspect samples,” as did Australia and a U.S. air base in South Korea.
The military has ordered a sweeping review of the procedure used to inactivate the deadly bacteria.
All laboratories have been ordered to stop working with any “inactive” samples sent from the Defence Department, pending the outcome of the investigation.
Bio-safety experts are astonished by the lapse.
“These events shouldn’t happen,” Stephen Morse of Columbia University, who was formerly a program manager for bio-defense at the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, said last week.
Those working with dangerous pathogens have a “two-person rule,” never handling samples alone. The second pair of eyes should insure scientists take proper precautions during handling and experiments.
“We can put greater safeguards in place,” Mr. Morse said.