Pentagon Accidentally Shipped Live Anthrax To Labs Across U.S. And South Korea

Pentagon Accidentally Shipped Live Anthrax To Labs Across U.S. And South Korea

Samples of live anthrax, which is a rare but serious bacterial illness that affects mostly animals, were accidentally shipped from a U.S. defense department laboratory in Dugway, Utah to private research laboratories in at least 9 states and one in South Korea. The labs were supposed to have received dead spores anthrax samples, called AG-1. 

There is no known risk to the general public and there have been no suspected or confirmed cases of anthrax infection as a result of the inadvertent shipment, officials said. But Fox News reported that precautions are being taken for potentially exposed workers in labs where the samples were sent. Four people in 3 companies are being treated for “post-exposure” and being prescribed prophylaxis. 

The DoD routinely sends dead anthrax spores or inactivated spores to research facilities.

Close up of cells. Pentagon shipped live anthrax.

Anthrax Bacillus anthracis vegetative cells in monkey spleen. (Image source: Alamy/The Guardian)

Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman explained how the Department of Defense is collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and said, “The DoD lab was working as part of a DoD effort to develop a field-based test to identify biological threats in the environment. Out of an abundance of caution, DoD has stopped the shipment of this material from its labs pending completion of the investigation.”

He added, “The sample was destroyed in accordance with appropriate protocols.”

The samples were shipped on April 30th from the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, as part of what was described as a “routine” research process, to a military laboratory in Maryland. From there they were shipped via a commercial shipper to eight companies with laboratories in nine states: California, Texas, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey and New York.

On May 22nd, the private laboratory in Maryland detected that their shipment contained live samples and contacted the CDC.

That triggered a response from the Defense Department and other agencies, including the FBI, to trace the shipments to ensure that they were properly secured.

The official said it is believed that all of the shipments have been secured.

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