US NIH Discovers Even More Dangerous Pathogens in Recent Lab Sweep

By Darren Orf on at

This past July, we reported that the National Institutes of Health found vials filled with smallpox in a Maryland lab. The potentially disastrous discovery prompted the agency to check on all its labs to make sure no other fatal diseases were lurking about. It turns out there were.

NIH. announced on Friday that they'd found century-old ricin, samples of plague, and botulism bacteria, according to AP. Ricin, other than being Walter White's toxin of choice, does have legitimate research applications, says NIH, but has no purpose in the lab where it was discovered on the agency's Maryland campus. As for the other pathogens and viruses, they also have a place on campus as AP explains:

The NIH does have laboratories that are cleared to use select agents, and those pathogens are regularly inventoried, said NIH director of research services Dr. Alfred Johnson, who oversees agency security and safety issues.

But these samples were in different labs, mostly in historical collections that scientists once routinely kept in the backs of freezers or on dusty shelves but that today require special handling.

In the end, it's all good news that the agency is finally doing some much needed cleaning, but if these deadly samples were found in disregarded storage, what other diseases remain waiting on dusty shelves? [AP]