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In Brief

75 CDC Scientists May Have Been Exposed to Anthrax

Anthrax spores
This image shows spores from Bacillus anthracis bacteria, magnified more than 30,000 times. (Image credit: Janice Haney Carr, via CDC)

A mistake at a federal laboratory may have exposed as many as 75 researchers to the dangerous bacteria anthrax, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said today.

The error occurred when researchers at a CDC laboratory did not properly inactivate live anthrax bacteria, according to Reuters. The bacteria were then transferred to another lab, where workers did not wear proper protective equipment because they believed the bacteria were inactivated, according to the New York Times.

The chances that anyone was actually exposed to anthrax is small, and no employees have symptoms, Thomas Skinner, a spokesman for the CDC, told the New York Times.

But 75 employees — including those who may have walked into labs with the live bacteria — are being offered a two-month course of antibiotics, Reuters said.

When people become infected with anthrax bacteria — through inhalation, touch or food — the bacteria can produce toxins and cause severe illness, including fever and chills, vomiting and body aches, according to the CDC.

Rachael has been with Live Science since 2010. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.