Missing samples of deadly flu strain now found

World Health Organization (WHO) officials say that all but one of the deadly flu virus samples mistakenly sent to labs outside the United States have been destroyed.

The last sample which had been missing in Beirut, Lebanon was found at the airport and will shortly be destroyed. Samples which went missing in Mexico and South Korea have been located and destroyed.

Of the 3,747 kits mistakenly sent out in October and February most were received by laboratories in the United States and reports say 98 percent of those samples have been destroyed. Maria Cheng, a spokesman for WHO says however that there are still some laboratories that have yet to confirm the destruction of the samples they were sent.

The kits accidentally contained an "Asian flu" strain, called H2N2, that killed between 1 million and 4 million people worldwide in 1957-58, the pathogens distributed to the labs around the world are used widely in research to develop new vaccines or anti-viral drugs. They are also used in quality control or to verify if a new test actually works.

The H2N2 strain has not been part of flu vaccines since 1968. Anyone born after that date has little or no immunity to the germ, raising fears that the shipments might inadvertently trigger a flu pandemic.

Most of the samples were sent at the request of the College of American Pathologists, which helps labs do proficiency testing.

U.S. health officials say they will work with pathologists and other health organizations to establish better guidelines for lab testing of germs like H2N2.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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