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Letter to NIH Regarding Reporting of Pathogen Incidents

Jul 11, 2017

Excerpt: “On September 23, 1995, The Washington Post reported that ‘NIH safety officers got an anonymous tip last week that a top-ranking person at the lab, in a casual conversation a couple of years ago, said there was smallpox in the freezers’ in the laboratory of Dr. Carlton Gajdusek, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist who later went to jail in 1997 for child abuse. The tipster said the gist of the conversation was that smallpox virus was kept in a lab freezer used to store biological specimens. Dr. Gajdusek denied ever having the virus, but NIH safety officers checked every sample in the ‘working freezers’ in Dr. Gajdusek’s lab and found nothing labeled smallpox. A more comprehensive effort to account for any smallpox specimens in all cold storage rooms and freezers throughout NIH might have led to the discovery of the samples later found in 2014. Although the NIH search efforts did not find the smallpox samples in Dr. Gajdusek’s lab, it is a reasonable possibility that the tipster’s allegation in fact was referring to the smallpox samples eventually found in the Building 29A cold room in 2014. We also believe that either the tipster misunderstood the conversation, the NIH safety officers misunderstood part of the tipster’s allegations, or some combination of both.”

To read a copy of the letter, click here.