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French scientists: We've lost SARS virus vials

Joshua Melvin · 14 Apr 2014, 18:14

Published: 14 Apr 2014 18:14 GMT+02:00

France’s distinguished Institut Pasteur, which was among the first to isolate HIV in the 1980s, admitted on Monday that it has lost some 2,349 vials in 29 boxes, containing samples of the deadly SARS virus.

During a recent inventory researchers realized the vials were unaccounted for and so called in France’s drug and health safety agency "l'Agence nationale de sécurité du médicament et des produits de santé" to help with the search, according to a statement from Institut Pasteur.

The drug and health safety people spent four days, from April 4th-12th, doing an ‘in depth’ investigation at the unnamed lab in question and came up empty handed as well.

SARS is not the kind of virus you'd want floating around.

You may remember the outbreak of SARS, which stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, in the early 2000s in Asia which killed some 775 people and sickened thousands more. It kills roughly 10 percent of those are foundto be infected.

Institut Pasteur, however, says the missing vials of the virus, is no reason for alarm, although it offered no explanation for what may have happened to the disease. 

“The tubes concerned have no infectious potential,” according to the statement. “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.”

The Institut Pasteur has formally asked French authorities to open an investigation into the missing vials, which they believe may have been destroyed without any record having been made.

"The theory of human error is the most probable, but we are not ruling anything out," said  Christian Bréchot the director general of the institute.

French scientists have a a bit of history when it comes to potentially dangerous viruses. In what sounds like the beginning of a horror movie scientists from France "woke up" a 30,000-year-old virus that had been frozen and preserved in the Siberian ice.

Story continues below…

The scientists insist it is a warning about what unknown killer strains could be released by global warming. Click below for the full story.

French scientists 'wake' 30,000-year-old virus

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Joshua Melvin (joshua.melvin@thelocal.com)

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