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Lab Project Suspended At U Of C After Researcher Gets Sick

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Research has stopped at a lab at the University of Chicago, after a scientist got sick and was hospitalized.

As WBBM Newsradio's John Hultman reports, the researcher was hospitalized late last month after developing a skin infection from the bacterium Bacillus cereus, which she was studying in a project headed by microbiologist Olaf Schneewind, according to ScienceInsider.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio's John Hultman reports


The researcher was hospitalized on Aug. 27, and released after surgery and antibiotics, ScienceInsider reported.

She was not personally working on B. cereus at the time, but might have been exposed when her gloved hand touched an inoculant spilled by another researcher, then an open wound, ScienceInsider reported.

Two years ago, a U of C researcher died while working in the same area of the Cummings Life Science Center.

Malcolm Casadaban, who worked with Schneewind, died after being exposed to a weakened strain of the bacterium Yersinia pestis, ScienceInsidere reported. The bacterium causes the plague, but has been approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for research purposes, the U of C said at the time.

But the U of C says this new case is drastically different. B. cereus can cause food poisoning, but the U of C has been disinfecting the lab as a precaution.

Conrad Gilliam, U of C Biological Sciences Division dean for research and graduate education, told ScienceInsider that after the disinfection, the university will consider rethinking and retraining procedures for lab biosafety.

No one else has gotten sick.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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