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WASHINGTON, July 31 A U.S. congressional
committee investigating the mishandling of anthrax at the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asked a federal
watchdog agency on Thursday to review U.S. lab procedures for
handling dangerous pathogens.
In a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO),
the House Energy and Commerce Committee called for GAO to
provide details about current federal lab policies and
procedures and guidance on whether agencies that run biosecurity
labs have undertaken efforts to assess and improve their
The committee is looking into a series of lapses at CDC labs
and other facilities, including the potential exposure of more
than 80 lab workers to live anthrax bacteria at the CDC in
Atlanta, the accidental release of a deadly strain of bird flu
and the discovery of vials containing smallpox at the National
Institutes of Health campus outside Washington.
Among the measures lawmakers are weighing is whether to
charge an outside agency with setting and policing new lab
"Recently, there have been several highly publicized reports
of federal laboratories experiencing lapses in the management of
dangerous pathogens, prompting concern that these incidents may
not be isolated events," said the letter, which was signed by
three Republicans and three Democrats including U.S.
Representative Fred Upton, the panel's Republican chairman.
"It is vitally important to maintain biosafety and
biosecurity protocols at federal laboratories," it added.
(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Sandra Maler and Eric