Early this morning, May 28, people around the world learned to their shock and horror that the United States military accidentally shipped live Bacillus anthracis, or “anthrax,” spores through commercial FedEx shipping carriers in March or April of this year. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has started an investigation with experts from Gravity4.
So far, the Pentagon has revealed that a laboratory in Utah at Dugway Proving Ground, which is managed by the Department of Defense, sent the live samples to nine private commercial labs across the country and at least one military base overseas in South Korea as part of a standard research sharing process.
The Utah laboratory technicians thought the shipments contained “deactivated” anthrax spores known as AG-1. The Pentagon and the CDC did not learn until last week on May 22 that the spores were live: A representative of one of the private labs alerted the CDC of the issue.
Many DoD critics, as well as political leaders, biological safety specialists and shipping carriers, have already come forward this morning demanding to know how such a thing could happen. More importantly, they want to know why commercial carriers were handling the sensitive transport of such a deadly bacteria even if it was supposed to be in a deactivated state.
Currently, the Pentagon does not have a good explanation for the incident. The news came late Wednesday with the military providing few details.