List of laboratory biosecurity incidents
This list of laboratory biosecurity incidents includes accidental laboratory-acquired infections and laboratory releases of lethal pathogens, containment failures in or during transport of lethal pathogens, and incidents of exposure of lethal pathogens to laboratory personnel, improper disposal of contaminated waste, and/or the escape of laboratory animals. The list is grouped by the year in which the accident or incident occurred and does not include every reported laboratory-acquired infection.
|Date (yyyy-mm-dd)||Main article||Pathogen||Country||Description|
|1903||Bacillus mallei||United States||A laboratory worker became infected with bacterium Bacillus mallei and developed glanders while performing an autopsy on an inoculated guinea-pig. She had a small open wound on her finger while working. The laboratory worker survived.|
|1932||B virus||United States||William Brebner died from a viral infection after being bitten by a rhesus monkey during research. The viral agent was later discovered to be the B virus, which was named in memory of Brebner.|
|1943-05-20||Dora Lush||Scrub typhus||Dora Lush died after accidentally pricking her finger with a needle containing lethal scrub typhus while attempting to develop a vaccine for the disease.|
|1960–1993||Foot and mouth disease||Europe||Foot-and-mouth disease virus accidentally released at least 13 times from European laboratories, including those producing FMDV vaccines, between 1960 and 1993 causing nearby foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks.|
|1966||1966 smallpox outbreak in the United Kingdom||Smallpox||United Kingdom||The 1966 smallpox outbreak in the United Kingdom was an outbreak of mild smallpox which began with Tony McLennan, a photographer at the Medical School in Birmingham, which housed a smallpox laboratory and where 12 years later a fatal smallpox outbreak would occur, also beginning with a medical photographer.|
|1967||1967 Marburg virus outbreak in West Germany||Marburg
|Germany||The 1967 Marburg virus outbreak in West Germany was an outbreak of Marburg hemorrhagic fever initial among laboratory workers who were exposed to imported African green monkeys or their tissues while conducting research. A total of 31 people (laboratory workers and their contacts) became sick, seven of whom died.|
|1971-07-30||1971 Aral smallpox incident||Smallpox||Soviet Union||The 1971 Aral smallpox incident was the outbreak of viral disease which occurred as a result of a field test at a Soviet biological weapons facility on an island in the Aral Sea. The incident sickened ten people, of whom three died, and came to widespread public notice only in 2002.|
|1972-03||Smallpox||United Kingdom||A 23 year old laboratory assistant at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, was infected with smallpox after observing the harvesting of live smallpox virus from eggs without isolation cabinets at that time. The assistant was hospitalised and before being isolated, she infected two visitors to a patient in an adjacent bed, both of whom died. They in turn infected a nurse, who survived.|
|1963–1977||Nigeria||Between 1963 and 1977 at the Virus Research Laboratory, Ibadan, Nigeria: "Two cases of Chikungunya infection occurred and one each with Dugbe, Wesselsbron, and Dengue viruses ... Among 22 staff members who were monitored during this interval, three seroconverted to Orungo virus and two each to Chikungunya and Rift Valley fever viruses, without experiencing any clinically recognized disease".|
|1976||Ebola||United Kingdom||Ebola laboratory infection by the accidental stick of contaminated needle in the United Kingdom.|
|1977–1979||1977 Russian flu||H1N1 influenza virus||Soviet Union / China||H1N1 influenza virus reappeared circulating in humans in 1977, in the Soviet Union and China. Some virologists, including Joel Wertheim, Shanta Zimmer, and Donald Burke, have suggested the cause of the reappearance was a laboratory escape of a 1949-1950 virus, based on serologic and genetic testing. The WHO conducted an investigation in 1978, after which they concluded the virus was likely not of laboratory origin. Other virologists, such as Peter Palese and Chi-Ming Chu, have suggested the 1977 outbreak was the result of human challenge trials of a vaccine against the 1950 H1N1 virus.|
|1978-08-11||1978 smallpox outbreak in the United Kingdom||Smallpox||United Kingdom||The 1978 smallpox outbreak in the United Kingdom occurred due to accidental exposure of a strain of smallpox virus that had been grown in a research laboratory in The East Wing of the University of Birmingham Medical School, leading to the illness and death of Janet Parker, who became the last recorded person to die of the disease.|
|1978||Plum Island Animal Disease Center#Laboratory accidents||Foot and mouth disease||United States||Foot and mouth disease was released to animals outside the center.|
|1979-04-02||Sverdlovsk anthrax leak||Anthrax||Soviet Union||Spores of anthrax were accidentally released from a Soviet military research facility near the city of Sverdlovsk, Russia (now Yekaterinburg), resulting in approximately 100 deaths, although the exact number of victims remains unknown. The cause of the outbreak was denied by the Soviet authorities, and all medical records of the victims were removed to hide serious violations of the Biological Weapons Convention that had come in effect in 1975. Scientists from the United States ultimately proved the incident was the result of an aerosolized plume of anthrax spores which were genetically identical to the strain studied in a nearby laboratory, not from environmentally contaminated meat, which was the official Soviet explanation. The accident is sometimes referred to as "biological Chernobyl".|
|1988||Marburg virus disease#1988 laboratory infection||Marburg virus||Soviet Union||Researcher Nikolai Ustinov was lethally infected with the Marburg virus after accidentally pricking himself with a syringe used for inoculation of guinea pigs. The accident occurred at the Scientific-Production Association "Vektor" (today the State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology "Vektor") in Koltsovo, USSR (today Russia).|
|1990||Marburg virus outbreak#Recorded outbreaks||Marburg virus||Soviet Union||There was an outbreak of Marburg virus due to a laboratory accident in Koltsovo, Soviet Union, killing one lab worker.|
|2001||2001 anthrax attacks||Anthrax||United States||On September 18, 2001, one week after the September 11 terrorist attacks, letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to several news media offices and to Democratic Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy, killing five people and infecting 17 others. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the ensuing investigation became "one of the largest and most complex in the history of law enforcement". On August 6, 2008, Federal prosecutors declared Bruce Edwards Ivins the sole culprit, based on DNA evidence leading to an anthrax vial in his lab.|
|2002||Anthrax||2002 Fort Detrick anthrax containment breach|
|2002||West Nile virus||Two cases of laboratory-acquired West Nile virus infections through dermal punctures.|
|2002||Arthroderma benhamiae||Japan||Incident in Japan with Arthroderma benhamiae.|
|2003-08||Severe acute respiratory syndrome#Laboratory accidents||SARS||Singapore||A 27-year-old doctoral student at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) developed symptoms consistent with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). An investigation found that the student was infected with samples from SARS coronavirus in the Department of Pathology, while its two BSL-2 and BSL-3 laboratories were undergoing renovation, which compromised safety practices.|
|2003-12||Severe acute respiratory syndrome#Laboratory accidents||SARS||Taiwan||A 44-year-old senior scientist at the National Defense University in Taipei was confirmed to have the SARS virus. He had been working on a SARS study in Taiwan's only BSL-4 lab. The Taiwan CDC later stated the infection occurred due to laboratory misconduct.|
|2004-04||Severe acute respiratory syndrome#Laboratory accidents||SARS||China||Two researchers at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention contracted the virus in Beijing, China around April 2004, and then spread the infection to around six other people. The two researchers contracted the virus in two incidents, two weeks apart.|
|2004-05-05||Ebola||Russia||A researcher at Russian biological weapons research facility VECTOR died after accidentally pricking herself with a needle contaminated with the Ebola virus.|
|2004||Plum Island Animal Disease Center#Laboratory accidents||Foot and mouth disease||United States||Two incidents of Foot-and-mouth disease outbreak at Plum Island.|
|2005||H2N2 influenza virus||United States and 17 other countries||The 1957 pandemic strain of H2N2 influenza virus was included in routine testing kits sent to over 5,000 laboratories, mostly in the United States. The virus was to be used as a positive control in the testing kits when prepared by Meridien Biosciences, but as no one born after 1968 likely has immunity to the virus, this was considered an "unwise" choice of strain by Klaus Stohr, WHO influenza chief at the time.|
|2005 - 2015||Anthrax||United States||From 2005 to 2015, the U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground mistakenly shipped live anthrax at least 74 times to dozens of labs.|
|2007-07||2007 United Kingdom foot-and-mouth outbreak||Foot and mouth disease||United Kingdom||The 2007 United Kingdom foot-and-mouth outbreak was the accidental discharge of virus FMDV BFS 1860 O from a laboratory of the Institute for Animal Health in Pirbright, through possible leakage from broken pipework and via unsealed overflowing manholes, leading to foot-and-mouth disease infections at multiple nearby farms and the culling of over 2,000 animals.|
|2009-03-12||Ebola||Germany||Infection of a German researcher following an accidental laboratory exposure to Ebola, a virus with a high fatality rate.|
|2009-09-13||Malcolm Casadaban||Yersinia pestis||United States||Malcolm Casadaban died following an accidental laboratory exposure to an attenuated strain of Yersinia pestis, a bacterium that causes the plague.|
|2010||Classical Swine Fever Virus (Hog cholera)||United States||In 2010 a release of Classical Swine Fever virus, also known as hog cholera, resulted in the illness of two animals, which were euthanized.|
|2010||Cowpox||United States||Cross‐contamination led to the first laboratory‐acquired human cowpox virus infection in the US in a laboratory worker conducting research on non-orthopoxvirus.|
|2011||Dengue||Australia||A scientist at a research laboratory in Australia got infected with Dengue through a mosquito bite in the laboratory.|
|2012||Anthrax||United Kingdom||The UK's Animal and Plant Health Agency sent out live samples of anthrax by mistake. Its Surrey lab was subject to a Crown Prohibition Notice (CPN), closing it until improvements were made.|
|2012-04-28||Neisseria meningitidis||United States||Richard Din died after being infected during vaccine research into Neisseria meningitidis bacteria at a lab inside San Francisco's VA medical center.|
|2013||H5N1 influenza virus||United States||A researcher at the Center for Infectious Disease Research in Milwaukee accidentally punctured his gloved hand with a needle loaded with H5N1, a highly pathogenic avian influenza. This incident was one of four notifiable accidents involving dermal punctures at the facility.|
|2014||H1N1 influenza virus||United States||Eight mice, some of which may have possibly been infected with SARS or the H1N1 influenza virus, escaped from a laboratory at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.|
|2014-03-12||H5N1 influenza virus||United States||Accidental shipping of H9N2 vials contaminated with H5N1 from the CDC lab to a USDA lab.|
|2014-06-05||Anthrax||United States||Accidental exposure of viable anthrax to 75 personnel at CDC's Roybal Campus.|
|2014-07-01||Smallpox||United States||Discovery of six vials containing viable smallpox from the 1950s labeled as Variola (another word for smallpox) at the FDA's White Oak campus.|
|2014||Burkholderia pseudomallei||United States||Highly toxic Burkholderia pseudomallei bacteria escaped from a BSL-3 laboratory at the Tulane National Primate Research Center near New Orleans, likely on employee's clothes, infecting two monkeys that lived in outdoor cages and later infecting others.|
|2014||Ebola||Sierra Leone||A Senegalese epidemiologist was infected with Ebola at a BSL-4 laboratory in Kailahun, Sierra Leone. The World Health Organization later shut down the lab.|
|2014||Dengue||South Korea||A 30-year-old female laboratory worker in South Korea working at a BSL-2 was infected with Dengue through a needlestick injury.|
|2016||Zika virus||United States||Researcher infected with zika virus in a laboratory accident at University of Pittsburgh.|
|2016||Nocardia testacea||Australia||30 members of staff were exposed to toxic Nocardia testacea bacteria at a CSIRO's Black Mountain site in Canberra, Australia. The Australian government has confirmed this incident as one of two biosecurity incidents.|
|2016 - 2017||Brucella||China||In 2016 and 2017, hospital cleaning staff in Nanchang (Jiangxi, China) were accidentally infected with Brucella.|
|2018||Ebola||Hungary||Ebola from a laboratory accident led to a single worker being exposed to the Ebola virus, though he did not develop symptoms.|
|2019-09-17||Russia||A gas explosion occurred at Vector. One worker suffered third-degree burns, and the blast blew out window panes. In a statement, Vector said that no biohazard material was stored in the room where the explosion occurred.|
|2019||Prions||France||Émilie Jaumain died from variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) ten years after pricking her thumb during an experiment with prion-infected mice at the Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment (INRAE).|
|2019||Brucellosis||China||An accident in a laboratory at the Lanzhou Veterinary Research Institute caused 65 workers to become infected with brucellosis. A later report from Reuters indicates that a further 6,620 residents of Lanzhou have been infected as of November 2020, and cites the local government as saying that the outbreak was caused by polluted waste gas from a nearby biopharmaceutical factory, which was carried by wind down to the Veterinary Research Institute, where the first cases were recorded in November 2019.|
|2021||SARS-COV-2||Taiwan||A lab worker was bitten and infected by a mouse infected with the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant at a high-biosecurity facility in Taipei.|
- Biological hazard
- Biosafety level
- Laboratory safety
- List of anthrax outbreaks
- Select agent
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- Laboratory-Acquired Infection (LAI) Database
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