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UT officials admit mistakes in not reporting lab miscues


University of Texas officials have acknowledged they failed to report 10 out of 13 laboratory accidents to federal authorities in the last seven years.

All of the incidents should have been reported, according to guidelines established by the National Institutes of Health.

The university plans to increase safety training and oversight in the nearly 1,000 campus labs, said Harold “Woody” Davis, associate vice president for research at Texas.

“Clearly, if you have folks getting ill in a lab, you need to follow up and find out what’s going on,” Davis said.

The national institutes demanded information from the school’s biosafety program after the California-based Sunshine Project obtained school records regarding an apparent spill of a flu virus last year that had not been reported. The school then did their own review.

The review by UT found that four lab workers received medical treatment for exposure to shigella, a bacteria that can cause digestive problems and fever. The workers recovered.

In October, a vial containing human embryonic kidney cells exploded and sent pieces of plastic into the eye of a worker. In November, a lab worker taking a blood sample from a person’s ear was squirted in the eye with blood.

“Folks make mistakes,” Davis said. “I don’t think it would serve any effective purpose to try to point fingers. We’re trying to make a culture change where we foster reporting.”

Earlier this month at Texas A&M, two officials quit after federal authorities criticized the school’s bioweapons research laboratories for safety and security problems.

Information from the Austin American-Statesman:

– Associated Press

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