Vial of deadly Venezuelan virus goes missing from Texas lab

CDC microbiologist Tatiana Travis sets up real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to detect drug-resistant pathogens, including carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE). CDC

GALVESTON, TexasA vial containing a virus from Venezuela that can cause hemorrhagic fever has gone missing from a research Texas research facility.

Officials say there's no reason to believe there's a threat to the public.

The University of Texas Medical Branch said Saturday that there was no breach in the security its Galveston National Laboratory and no indication of wrongdoing.

In a statement, university president Dr. David L. Callender said doctors were unable to account for one vial of the agent during a routine inspection March 20 and 21, 2013. The vial had been stored in a locked freezer within a secure laboratory, he said.

The virus in the vial is called Guanarito, according to the university. The medical branch says the virus, native to Venezuela, is transmitted only through contact with Venezuelan rats. It is not believed to be able to survive in U.S. rodents or to be transmitted person-to-person.

Officials suspect the missing vial containing the Guanarito virus was destroyed during the lab's cleaning process but the investigation continues. The university said this is the first time a vial has gone missing from a lab.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was immediately notified after the vial was discovered missing Wednesday.

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