Web Zap*Germs Archive

September 14, 2005

Researchers Killed Bioterror Germ Samples Ahead of Katrina Flood Waters

In an AP report on how much scientific research was destroyed by hurricane Katrina's flood waters, the lead paragraphs describe a dramatic and vitally important mission by Dr. Raoult Ratard, chief epidemiologist of Louisiana:
As rising floodwaters swamped New Orleans, Louisiana's chief epidemiologist enlisted state police on a mission to break into a high-security government lab and destroy any dangerous germs before they could escape or fall into the wrong hands.

Armed with bolt cutters and bleach, Dr. Raoult Ratard's team entered the state's so-called 'hot lab,' and killed all the living samples.

"This is what had to be done," said Ratard, who matter-of-factly put a sudden end to his lab's work on dangerous germs, which he wouldn't name.

At least Ratard's team was able to retrieve laptop computers containing vital scientific data. Many other scientists in the region weren't so fortunate, losing years of research, either through storm damage or voluntary destruction.
All the labs in Katrina's path that handle bioweapons defense research involving pathogens such as anthrax reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that their security wasn't compromised, according to CDC spokesman Von Roebuck. "A few reported minor damage, but there was no issue of escape."
Among the important research damaged by flooding was the frozen urine and blood samples from thousands of patients enrolled in the Bogalusa Heart Study -- the world's longest-running racial study of risk factors for heart disease.

Some new Bogalusa results, published in early 2005, revealed that children with good cardiovascular health are likely to stay healthy in adulthood -- demonstrating the importance of establishing heart-healthy diets early in life. (Which reminds me of the sudden death of 23-year-old football player Thomas Herrion from ischemic heart disease.)


Post a Comment

<< Home