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Deadly Pathogens Found During NIH Lab Search

Update Date: Sep 09, 2014 09:03 AM EDT

Deadly toxins from a bygone era were reportedly found by the National Institute of Health (NiH) last week, raising questions over the handling of such substances.

According to IB Times, NIH found five deadly agents in the Bethesda facility located in Maryland. Some of the toxins were from at least 100 years ago. The find included a bottle of Ricin along with agents that caused plague, tularemia, melioidosis and botulism. The containers were found in what NIH called its "historical collections" but nevertheless admitted that they were improperly stored. There were no reports of any staff coming in contact with the deadly substances.

A few NIH laboratories are cleared to use such pathogens but the handling of such substances is under regulation and inventorying, absence of which has raised concerns.

"NIH takes this matter very seriously. The finding of these agents highlights the need for constant vigilance in monitoring laboratory materials in compliance with federal regulations on biosafety," The Independent quoted the organization after it announced the find.

The finding of Ricin, a highly toxic compound, in an 85-year old bottle was the most startling find. The toxin has been used many times in failed presidential attempts, IB Times reported.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) too revealed that it had found food poisoning agent staphylococcus enterotoxin stored improperly in a lab at the agency's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. The lab reportedly was not registered to work with the pathogen. The samples were later destroyed, without having caused any health risk.

NIH labs were searched after a scientist in July this year located vials of small pox. The deadly disease was said to be eradicated decades ago. The find set off alarm bells, resulting in a scouring of all labs on the campus to locate remaining pathogen samples and to destroy them, CBC News reported.

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