Pasteur Institute loses 2,300 vials containing pieces of SARS virus
Officials at the Pasteur Institute in Paris say the laboratory’s loss of 2,349 “tubes” containing fragments of the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) virus does not pose an infection risk, but they call the lapse an “unacceptable mistake,” according to media reports.
The institute revealed on Apr 13 that the vials have been missing since January, according to a report today from Euronews, a French-based television news network. A routine inventory led to the discovery of the samples’ disappearance.
“We knew from the beginning that the samples were not infectious, as the MSNA’s independent experts confirmed,” Christian Brechot, president of the institute, was quoted as saying. The MSNA is the National Agency for the Safety of Medicine and Health Products.
The story said experts dismissed any possibility of misuse of the samples because none of the tubes contained a complete virus. But Brechot commented, “Losing the samples is an unacceptable mistake. . . . It is the first time that the institute has lost samples in this manner and it is entirely inadmissible.”
The institute has asked French authorities to investigate the loss of the samples, the story said.
The tubes were stored in a high-security laboratory with limited access, according to an International Business Times story. It said Brechot suggested that the vials, which were moved from one freezer to another in March 2013, might have been destroyed by a staff member who forgot to document the procedure.
The SARS virus, a coronavirus, sickened about 8,000 people and killed around 800 when it spread internationally from China in 2003.