The investigation by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) of the Army's handling of anthrax has turned up another case of mistaken distribution of a live anthrax sample - this time to a lab in Australia in 2008.
The CDC referred questions on the Australian shipment to the Pentagon, which disclosed little about the latest case other than to confirm that it happened and again involved the Army's Dugway Proving Ground in Utah.
"There is an ongoing investigation and we need to let this develop," said Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman.
The disclosure of the incident in Australia suggested that the investigation was taking a broader look at procedures at Dugway, the military's principal testing ground for chemical and biological weapons about 85 miles sought of Salt Lake City.
On Tuesday, the Pentagon said that an anthrax sample from Dugway turned up live at an undisclosed Maryland lab, which was one of nine labs nationwide that received what were thought to be inert anthrax samples from Dugway to use in developing a field test for pathogens.
Four workers at the Maryland lab were treated with antibiotics as a precaution but the Pentagon and the CDC said there was no threat to the public.
On Wednesday, the Pentagon said that another shipment from the same Dugway anthrax sample had gone to the Osan Air Force Base in South Korea. As a precaution, 22 personnel at Osan were treated with antibiotics. Again, the Pentagon and CDC said the sample was destroyed and there was no wider threat.
On Thursday, the CDC said that the initial anthrax sample from Dugway had gone out to a total of 18 government and civilian labs in the U.S. - and not to the nine first announced on Tuesday.
The Army and the CDC itself have been criticized in the past over the handling and distribution of pathogens.
In 2011, Dugway was locked down when a vial of VX nerve agent went missing. The lockdown was lifted a day later when the missing VX was found.
Last year, 11 prominent scientists on a 23-member biosecurity panel were fired for lack of oversight on the CDC's handling of anthrax samples and other toxins.
A federal investigation of the CDC's anthrax testing also found that CDC scientists contaminated samples of low-pathogenic bird flu viruses with a highly pathogenic strain and then shipped them to a Department of Agriculture lab, where the viruses promptly killed all the chickens exposed to them.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@military.com