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Deep Cleaning of Lab Shelves

In a search of labs, researchers uncovered stores of ricin and pathogens that had been left forgotten at both the US National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration, the Associated Press reports.

Earlier this summer, vials of smallpox were discovered in an old FDA lab at NIH and anthrax was found to be improperly stored at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These findings prompted NIH to declare September to be National Biosafety Stewardship Month and to urge labs to review their safety procedures and inventory the samples stored in their labs.

NIH, in its search of its labs, found small amounts of five agents that were not properly stored, including a sample of ricin that appeared to be nearly 100 years old and samples of the pathogens that cause botulism, melioidosis, plague, and tularemia.

"All of the agents were found in sealed and intact containers and there were no personnel exposures associated with the storage or discovery of these vials or samples," NIH Director Francis Collins said in a memo, according to Nature News.

FDA, meanwhile, uncovered Staphylococcal enterotoxin in the freezer of a lab that was not registered to work with such agents.

The samples found at both NIH and FDA were destroyed, the AP adds.

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