CDC: Misuse of garments may have led to release of bacteria at Tulane lab

Story highlights

  • The error "could have led to the bacteria clinging to inner garments and getting carried out" of a lab, inspectors say
  • Also, "staff frequently entered the select agent lab without appropriate protective clothing"
  • The CDC says the bacteria probably aren't a threat to the general population

(CNN)The misuse of outer protective garments may have led to the exposure of a potentially deadly strain of bacteria at the Tulane National Primate Research Center near New Orleans, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

An employee at the center has tested positive for the bacterium, which is kept at the facility. The employee is not sick, and Jason McDonald, a CDC spokesman, said the bacteria probably aren't a threat to the general population.
Inspectors from the CDC and the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said the misuse of outer garments "could have led to the bacteria clinging to inner garments and getting carried out of the select agent lab where research was being conducted with the bacteria on mice," a news release said.
    "Additionally, CDC and APHIS inspectors determined that Tulane primate center staff frequently entered the select agent lab without appropriate protective clothing, which would increase the risk of bringing the bacteria out of the lab or becoming infected themselves."
    The bacterium, Burkholderia pseudomallei, was being tested on mice in a biosafety level 3 lab at the Covington, Louisiana campus. It can cause can cause melioidosis, also known as Whitmore's disease.
    All research with the agent at the facility was suspended on February 11 and will remain suspended until it can be shown that there are no more risks and that proper procedures are being followed, the CDC said.
    The CDC says the primate facility can resume that research when Tulane officials show inspectors that:
    • Entity-wide procedures exist to ensure animals accidentally exposed in the future are managed appropriately;
    • All personal protective equipment procedures are thoroughl