Russian Scientist Dies After Ebola Lab Accident

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Science  28 May 2004:
Vol. 304, Issue 5675, pp. 1225
DOI: 10.1126/science.304.5675.1225b

A Russian scientist working on an Ebola vaccine died last week following a lab accident. On 5 May, Antonina Presnyakova, 46, pricked her hand with a syringe after drawing blood from infected guinea pigs in an ultrasecure biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) facility at the Vektor Research Institute of Molecular Biology, a former bioweapons lab near Novosibirsk, Russia. She was hospitalized immediately, says a lab official, developed symptoms 1 week later, and died on 19 May.

There is no requirement that Ebola incidents be reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) if the incident is not a threat to public health. The lab sought help from WHO and other BSL-4 labs on 17 May, followed by a conference call the next day with a WHO-recommended doctor. Presnyakova appeared “quite stable,” the official says, but her condition deteriorated rapidly overnight and she died the next morning.

Some press reports suggested that Vektor might have been able to save her life if it had contacted WHO sooner. But Vektor officials say that she was given the appropriate level of care, and WHO spokesperson Richard Thompson says, “They did all they could do, as far as we can tell.”

Vektor says an internal inquiry will issue a public report in mid-June.

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