Oops: UTMB Misplaces a Vial of Deadly Virus

Keep Houston Press Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston is proud to be the home of many highly infectious, very deadly viruses and other potential weapons of biological mass destruction.

And that's just in the break-room fridge!!! (Ha! Kidding.)

Part of the job of keeping such things around the premises, of course, is you're expected to make sure such things do, indeed, keep around the premises.

We've all seen movies where hazmat-suited stars go through an endless series of security measures to get to one of these rare and dangerous vials.

On the other hand, maybe the folks at UTMB haven't seen those movies, because, it seems, they've lost one of those dangerous little vials.

"Lost" is maybe too harsh a word; let's say they "misplaced" the (potentially incredibly deadly) vial, and as soon as Larry from Accounts Receivable cleans up his cubicle it will be found and returned to its rightful place. (Oh, that Larry.)

But for now UTMB President David Callender issued what's being called "a global message to employees regarding a vial of Galveston National Laboratory research material that is unaccounted for. "

"Unaccounted for" !! It's an accounting problem, people! Settle down!

The missing vial contained less than a quarter of a teaspoon of Guanarito and "had been stored in a locked freezer within a secure laboratory designed and approved to handle this kind of biological material safely (Biosafety Level 4)," Callender said.

Guanarito has been causing trouble in Venezuela. According to a medical Web site, its symptoms include:

Malaise Fever Convulsions Muscle aching Vomiting Diarrhea Cough Abdominal pain Hemorrhage

Which doesn't sound like fun. We'd hate for terrorists to get their hands on something that can cause "malaise" -- they could walk right in and take over the ennui-filled country, dammit.

UTMB says a routine inspection revealed the missing vial, and they suspect it was destroyed during a routine decontamination procedure. And Callender said there's really nothing to worry about; move on, nothing to see here, people:

[Guanarito] is not known to be transmitted from person-to-person and therefore poses no appreciable public health risk. It is native only to Venezuela and can cause hemorrhagic fever. In the limited area of Venezuela where the virus is found, it is transmitted only by rodents native to the area and is not believed to be capable of surviving naturally in rodents in the United States.

Then again, we all remember what the Mayor said in Jaws:

Follow Houston Press on Facebook and on Twitter @HairBallsNews or @HoustonPress.

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.