Saturday, April 25, 2009

Fort Detrick disease samples may be missing

Army criminal investigators are looking into the possibility that disease samples are missing from biolabs at Fort Detrick.

As first reported in today's edition of The Frederick News-Post by columnist Katherine Heerbrandt, the investigators are from the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division unit at Fort Meade.

Chad Jones, spokesman for Fort Meade, said CID is investigating the possibility of missing virus samples from the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

He said the only other detail he could provide is that the investigation is ongoing.

Fort Detrick does not have its own CID office, Jones said, which is why Fort Meade's CID was brought in.

Jones said he could not comment on when the investigation started.

CID is responsible for investigating crimes where the Army is, or may be, a party of interest, according to the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command website.

USAMRIID is the Army's top biodefense lab, where researchers study pathogens including Ebola, anthrax and plague.

In February, USAMRIID halted all its research into these and other diseases, known as "select agents" following the discovery of virus samples that weren't listed in its inventory.

The institute's commander, Col. John Skvorak, ordered research halted while workers conducted a complete inventory of the institute's select agents.

That inventory is nearly completed, though the exact end date isn't known yet, said Caree Vander Linden, USAMRIID spokeswoman.

Vander Linden said she didn't know about the CID investigation and referred questions to the CID's head public affairs office.

There is no indication whether the CID investigation is connected to USAMRIID's re-inventorying of its select agent stocks.

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