US Halts Bioweapons Research At Texas A&M After Safety Screw-Ups

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The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has halted infectious diseases research at Texas A&M University over safety concerns. This is the first ban on bioweapons work across an entire institution, reports Nature. The indefinite suspension follows two reports from the Sunshine Project, a watchdog group from Austin, alleging that Texas A&M failed to report researchers’ exposure to infectious agents. The first exposure occurred in February 2006 when a student contracted Brucella, a bacterium carried by dairy animals. The student was treated with antibiotics. The second occurred in April 2006 when three workers showed signs of exposure to Coxiella burnetii, a bacterium in livestock that causes Q fever in humans. None fell ill. Although Coxiella and Brucella are considered bioweapons, and all exposures require immediate reporting, neither incident was reported to the CDC until April 2007. Texas A&M faces fines of up to $750,000, and a long-term ban on funding for similar research. JULIA WHITTY

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