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Military institute’s research halted at Fort Detrick after failed inspection

The U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command and Fort Detrick Commander Maj. Gen. Brian C. Lein, right, and U.S. Army Garrison Fort Detrick Commander Col. Robert A. O'Brien, left, greet U.S. Senator Benjamin Cardin, center, to the Local Leaders event May 20 at Fort Detrick, Maryland. (US Army/Released)

All research at a institute on Fort Detrick that handles high-level disease causing materials including strains of Ebola is currently on hold after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent a cease and desist order in July.

The CDC inspected the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease at Fort Detrick in June, and inspectors found several areas of concern in standard operating procedures, which are in place to protect workers in biosafety level 3 and 4 laboratories, according to an email on Friday from spokeswoman Caree Vander Linden.

After USAMRIID received the order from the CDC, its registration with the Federal Select Agent Program, which oversees disease-causing material use and possession, was suspended. That suspension effectively halted all biological select agents and toxin research at USAMRIID, Vander Linden said in her email.

The Federal Select Agent Program does not comment if a program, like USAMRIID, is registered and cannot comment on actions taken to enforce regulations, Kathryn Harben, a spokeswoman with the CDC, wrote in an email.

“As situations warrant, FSAP will take whatever appropriate action is necessary to resolve any departures from regulatory compliance in order to help ensure the safety and security of work with select agents and toxins,” Harben said in the email.

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USAMRIID has been working on modified biosafety level 3 procedures and a new decontamination system since flooding in May 2018. This “increased the operational complexity of biocontainment laboratory research activities within the Institute,” Vander Linden said in the email.

USAMRIID is working with the CDC to address the health agency’s concerns.

“While the Institute’s research mission is critical, the safety of the workforce and community is paramount,” Vander Linden said. “USAMRIID is taking the opportunity to correct deficiencies, build upon strengths, and create a stronger and safer foundation for the future.”

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© 2019 The Frederick News-Post

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