More Bioweapon Infections at A&M Not Properly Reported?

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A watchdog group out of Austin has once again levied charges against Texas A&M, saying the university failed to report the infection of researchers with a bio-weapons agent.

The Sunshine Group has posted e-mails they obtained from A&M which noted the infection of three researchers in early 2006. The agent in question is called Q Fever, and the researchers apparently received treatment at Scott and White in Bryan.

The Austin-based Sunshine Group claims the CDC was not properly notified of the infections as required by law.

It was back in April that the watchdog group drudged up information, e-mails and documents surrounding the late reporting of another infection of a researcher, this time with the bioweapons agent brucella. As a result, the CDC launched an investigation at A&M, which is still on-going.

"It is apparent that brucella was only the beginning of Texas A&M's problems," said Sunshine Project Director Edward Hammond in a statement on their website. "A&M's infection of its staff and students with bioweapons agents and its serial violations of the Select Agent Rule demand law enforcement. If the US government fails to severely sanction Texas A&M, then the Select Agent Rule might as well be tossed in the trash can. Unpunished, Texas A&M's impunity reduces the Bioterrorism Act to mere half-hearted suggestion, rather than the law of the land. Congress surely did not intend biology professors to consider law to prevent bioterrorism as optional."

In response to the latest claims, Texas A&M Interim Vice President and Provost Jerry Strawser released the following statement:

"We can report that following an annual survey conducted as part of an occupational health plan, serological samples from three individuals reflected elevated titers when compared to the previous titers on file for these individuals. In connection with the ongoing investigation by CDC, the university adopted a procedure in April 2007 that redefines occupational exposure to include the presence of an elevated titer. We dutifully reported these elevated titers to the CDC following the adoption of this procedure. We are awaiting a CDC response and will have no further comment until that time. As we have said before, in response to this unfortunate incident, we have greatly strengthened our safety, training and reporting procedures."

Hammond is also claiming that the university has not been forthcoming with details on these cases, and is subject to punishment under the Open Meetings Act, and is vowing to continue its pursuit of information on this case.