As many as 75 scientists and staff in U.S. government laboratories in Atlanta may have been exposed to live anthrax bacteria after researchers failed to follow safety procedures, prompting an investigation by federal authorities.
Researchers working in a high-security bioterror response lab at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were preparing inactivated samples of the deadly organism, the CDC said on Thursday. But the bacteria may still have been infectious when the samples were transferred to lower-security CDC labs not equipped to handle live anthrax.

Two of the three labs conducted research that may have aerosolized the spores, the CDC said. The agency first detected the exposure on June 13, when live bacteria were found on the original slides used by scientists. Environmental sampling was done and the lab areas remain closed for decontamination.
"No employee has shown any symptoms of anthrax illness," Dr. Paul Meechan, director of the environmental health and safety compliance office at the CDC, told Reuters. "This should not have happened," he said. For those exposed, "we're taking care of it. We will not let our people be at risk."
The safety breach in the nation's premier bioterror lab raises new doubts about security measures at the CDC, whose infection control protocols are held up as a model to the world.
The FBI is working with CDC to investigate the incident, but has no evidence of foul play, a spokesman for the bureau said. U.S. lawmakers said they would be monitoring the situation.
"There is no room for error or negligence when it comes to bioterror research and every precaution must be taken to ensure the safety of our scientists," House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton said in a statement.
Meechan said the CDC is conducting an internal investigation and that disciplinary measures would be taken if warranted. He stressed that there is no risk to the general public.

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