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Pandemic series: reported theft of a potential bioterror agent in US by 2020?

The potential for the deliberate release of a human pathogens for purposes of war or terrorism is well known. Here we look at one of the precursors to such a release.

In the US, medical research on potentially human-harmful viral and bacterial pathogen and other "select agents" generally takes place in Biosafety level 3 and level 4 labs.

The US select agents program regulates the identification, acquisition, use, transfer, and disposal of select agents. Certain labs are designated as "select agent labs" and are part of this program (though apparently even the CDC is not entirely clear which labs are in the program; see the rather disturbing investigative report by USA today.)

A significant concern is theft of these select agents, which could potentially be used in a bioterror attack or as raw materials for a more sophisticated attack.

By 2020 will a credible journalist or government source disclose that a viable sample of a Select Agent has been stolen from a (or during transport to/from) a US Select Agent lab?

Here we will leave a relatively low burden-of-proof as to whether a lab is a designated Select Agent lab, and assume that a reasonably sophisticated university, government or industry lab doing research with Select Agents is such a lab. (Note that it is entirely unclear whether such a theft, if it occurred, would be reported or disclosed; we shall include theft events up to two years prior to question launch as long as no public disclosure has taken place prior to question launch.)


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