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Infectious Disease

CDC lab director behind anthrax mishap resigns

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The director of a government bioterror lab behind the potential exposure of workers to live anthrax has resigned, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday.

Michael Farrell, head of the CDC's Bioterror Rapid Response and Advanced Technology Laboratory (BRRAT) in Atlanta, had been reassigned from his position last month after the agency disclosed the safety breaches. He submitted his resignation on Tuesday, the CDC said.

“I can confirm that he was the team lead for the BRRAT lab since 2009 and that he’s resigned from that position,” said CDC spokesman Thomas Skinner.

Farrell was the first CDC employee to leave his post over the incident, in which more than 80 government lab workers were potentially exposed to the dangerous bacteria after samples that had not been properly inactivated left the BRRAT lab in June. No one has fallen ill as a result of the incident, and the CDC later concluded that the true risk of exposure was minimal, if at all.

But the lapse at the CDC prompted new scrutiny into how the agency protects the public from potentially dangerous research and a pledge from its director, Dr. Thomas Frieden, to change the culture of safety among its staff.

Frieden has said the agency would consider disciplinary action against any staff members found to have knowingly violated safety protocols or to have failed to report breaches.