University of Georgia lab workers exposed to TB

Sheila Allen

A dozen University of Georgia lab workers will be tested for tuberculosis because they may have unintentionally been exposed to a weakened form of the disease in a lab accident.

Shelia Allen, the dean of the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine, said that the workers are not at risk for developing TB even if they were exposed. She said the most dire consequence for them is the risk of having false-positives on future TB tests, according to TheRepublic.com.

Allen said that the bacteria was accidentally released inside a lab in the college’s main building in early November.

The accident occurred when a researcher placed the wrong type of container into a centrifuge. The scientist used a plastic tube with relatively weak walls. As the centrifuge spun, the tube wall collapsed, releasing the contents into the machine. Other lab workers immediately cleaned the spill.

The strain of the bacteria, called Bacillus Callmette-Geuerin, or BCG, is commonly used as a vaccine against TB. Scientists use the bacteria because it causes reactions similar to infectious TB strains. BCG is generally thought to be potentially dangerous to those with already compromised immune systems. Workers in the UGA lab have already undergone immune system testing, Allen said, according to OnlineAthens.com.

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