The renowned Institut Pasteur in France has admitted that it has misplaced 2,349 vials containing samples of the potentially deadly SARS virus and, despite enlisting help from France’s drug and health safety agency, have been unable to find them.
The investigation by the ANSM at the unnamed laboratory failed to locate the samples, which have been missing since January. It has now filed a case to the prosecutor of Paris to investigate the disappearance.
The Institut Pasteur has been quick to reassure the public that the vials do not pose any risk, according to The Local.
“The tubes concerned have no infectious potential,” a statement said. “Independent experts referred by health authorities have qualified the risk as 'nil' in regards to available evidence and literature on the survival of the SAS virus.”
They also dismissed the threat of samples being misused because none of the tubes contained the complete virus, only fragments.
“We knew from the beginning that the samples were not infectious, as the independent experts confirmed,” said Christian Bréchot, President of L’Institut Pasteur said.
“ [But] losing the samples is an unacceptable mistake. We took a decision to inform the public. We want to be perfectly transparent. It is the first time that the institute has lost samples in this manner and it is entirely inadmissible.”
SARS is a serious respiratory illness and was responsible for the death of almost 800 people in over two dozen countries during the 2003 outbreak in Asia.