The discovery of live anthrax outside a containment area at a military lab in Utah prompted military officials to order an immediate freeze on operations at nine biodefense laboratories that work with dangerous viruses, toxins and bacteria, the Pentagon announced Thursday.
The moratorium, first reported by USA TODAY, came after officials took a detailed look at policies and procedures at the labs and found them wanting, according to Defense officials. Labs at the Army's Dugway Proving Ground facility in Utah have been the focus of international concern since May, when the first clues emerged that the facility had been mistakenly shipping live anthrax — instead of killed specimens — to labs in the USA and abroad for years.
An ongoing USA TODAY Media Network investigation has revealed numerous safety problems at government, university and private labs that operate in the secretive world of biodefense research. Federal lab regulators are conducting comprehensive reviews of how they oversee lab safety and security.