Virus mix-up by lab could have resulted in pandemic.
06 Mar 2009 It's emerged that virulent H5N1 bird flu was sent out by accident from an Austrian lab [the Austrian branch of US vaccine company, Baxter] last year and given to ferrets in the Czech Republic before anyone realised. As well as the risk of it escaping into the wild, the H5N1 got mixed with a human strain, which might have spawned a hybrid that could unleash a pandemic.
'This was infected with a bird flu virus.' Viral Pandemic H5N1 flu threat: Illinois-based Baxter contaminates European labs by error 25 Feb 2009 According to the scientific network PROMED, Baxter International Inc. in Austria "unintentionally contaminated samples with the bird flu virus that were used in laboratories in 3 neighboring countries, raising concern about the potential spread of the deadly disease". As PROMED reports, the contamination has been discovered when ferrets at a laboratory in the Czech Republic died after being inoculated with vaccine made from the samples early this month. "The material came from Deerfield, Illinois-based Baxter, which reported the incident to the Austrian Ministry of Health, Sigrid Rosenberger, a ministry spokeswoman, said today in a telephone interview", the network-alert-system is quoting. "This was infected with a bird flu virus," Rosenberger said. "There were some people from the company who handled it."
'That mixing process, called reassortment, is one of two ways pandemic viruses are created.' Baxter admits sending live avian flu viruses to subcontractor --People familiar with biosecurity rules are dismayed by evidence that human H3N2 and avian H5N1 viruses somehow co-mingled [!] in the Orth-Donau facility. 27 Feb 2009 The company that released contaminated flu virus material from a plant in Austria confirmed Friday that the experimental product contained live H5N1 avian flu viruses. And an official of the World Health Organization's European operation said the body is closely monitoring the investigation into the events that took place at Baxter International's research facility in Orth-Donau, Austria. [Source: The Canadian Press]
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