Thursday, March 26, 2015

New Report Says CDC Lab Practices Threaten Its Credibility

An independent report on lab safety at CDC calls the agency's commitment to safety "inconsistent and insufficient." The report, which was completed in January but posted on the agency's website this week, also says "laboratory safety training is inadequate."

The report was written by an external group of 11 experts in biosafety, laboratory science and research. In the report, the experts say they are "very concerned that the CDC is on the way to losing credibility." The agency created the advisory group to improve lab safety in July, following several mishaps and other issues that were uncovered through procedural reviews.

One incident occurred last June when dozens of employees in a bioterrorism lab working with the deadly anthrax virus were at risk because of a failure to properly follow sterilization techniques; the head of that lab resigned following the incident. Prior to that, with the advisory group already working to reduce lab safety risks and improve the safety culture, employees in the Ebola lab were potentially exposed to that virus when a technician mistakenly transported the wrong specimens from a high-level lab to a lower-level lab.

Internal investigations were conducted after each incident, and various changes were recommended, such as cameras being added to some labs and certificates being required to transfer samples from some labs. The 4-page report summarizes the groups findings and offers recommendations following visits to CDC labs, meetings with CDC staff and a survey about the laboratory safety culture.

The report recommends that all CDC labs undergo an external review and accreditation process. They suggest the College of American Pathologists for clinical labs and the American Biological Safety Association for research labs. To that point, the committee states, "The CDC must not see itself as special. The internal controls and rules that the rest of the world works under also apply to CDC."

View a report about this issue from USA Today.