CDC Temporarily Halts Bioterrorism Research at Texas A&M
AUSTIN, Texas – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have temporarily suspended all research on select microorganisms at Texas A&M after the university failed to immediately report two incidents of exposure to harmful bacteria.
The order, issued on June 30, impacts five labs, four principal investigators and 120 employees. It marks the first time the CDC has halted all research at a facility pending an inspection.
The CDC began investigating Texas A&M in April 2007, when the university reported that 14 months ago, a researcher became ill after exposure to the bacterium Brucella.
After the Brucella incident came to light, Texas A&M revealed that three other researches had been exposed to the bacterium that causes Q-fever in March 2006, although without displaying symptoms. University officials claim they did not believe mere exposure required a report, although CDC investigators disagree.
The CDC suspended Brucella research in April 2007 and extended the order on June 30. The CDC plans to continue the investigation this month. Possible penalties range from fines to permanent revocation of permission to study the select agents.
In response, interim president Eddie Davis said Texas A&M has hired experts from the University of Texas Health Science to advise the school on creating a more efficient, regulated research center.
Before the investigation, Texas A&M had been working with the Department of Homeland Security, which awarded them an $18 million contract to conduct bioterrorism research in 2004. The university also hoped to win a contract for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in 2008.