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この報道は世界中に伝わっており、Konan Michel Yao で
Scientist arrested for smuggling vials used in Ebola research into US
May 13 12:18 PM US/Eastern
A Canadian scientist has been arrested for smuggling 22 vials stolen from Canada's National Microbiology Lab, used in Ebola and HIV research, into the United States, Canadian and US officials said Wednesday.
Konan Michel Yao, 42, "was taken into custody" while crossing the border from Manitoba province into the western US state of North Dakota on May 5, said a spokeswoman for the Public Health Agency of Canada, which operates the lab.
According to US prosecutor Lynn Jordheim, Yao was detained for carrying unidentified biological materials in vials wrapped in aluminium foil inside a glove and packaged in a plastic bag, along with electrical wires, in the trunk of his car.
Yao said in an affidavit he stole the vials, described as research vectors, from the Winnipeg lab on his last day of work there on January 21.
He told US border guards he was taking them to his new job with the National Institutes of Health at the Biodefense Research Laboratory in Bethesda, Maryland.
US authorities feared their contents could pose a terrorist threat. But tests later showed "they are not hazardous," said Jordheim.
"This turned out not to be a terrorism-related case," he said by telephone from North Dakota. "It appears to be exactly as he (Yao) said. However, he still faces possible charges for smuggling the vials into the United States."
Yao, meanwhile, remains in US custody after waiving his right to bail and preliminary hearings, as he awaits a possible grand jury indictment for smuggling, he said.
A Public Health Agency of Canada spokeswoman told AFP Yao "was working on vaccines for the Ebola virus and HIV, among other things."
"But he only had access to harmless and non-infectious materials, similar to what you'd find in a hospital or university lab. He did not have access to dangerous materials."
The Ivory Coast-born scientist is said to have studied at Laval University in Quebec and briefly worked at the University of Manitoba's plant sciences department.
Missing biological material contained small amounts of Ebola gene
Chris Purdy, THE CANADIAN PRESS
13/05/2009 10:30 PM
WINNIPEG - Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory is reviewing its security measures after vials containing safe traces of the Ebola gene were allegedly swiped by a scientist four months ago.
Officials at the lab became aware last week that the 22 vials were missing when U.S. authorities arrested the former employee at the Manitoba-North Dakota border.
The vials, according to court documents, were in a glove, wrapped in aluminum foil and placed in a plastic bag with electrical wires. They were found in the trunk of the scientist's car.
Konan Michel Yao, 42, is in custody in the United States charged with smuggling. Customs staff allege he didn't declare the biological material.
Dr. Frank Plummer, head of the Winnipeg lab, said Yao did not have security clearance to work with high-level pathogens such as the Ebola virus. But he was allowed to work on an Ebola vaccine project in the facility's special pathogens unit.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control, which has possession of the missing vials, has determined that some contain small amounts of genetic Ebola material, said Plummer.
But he added the material poses no risk to public health.
"It was just a gene. It was not infectious," Plummer told reporters Wednesday. "The only thing (Yao) could have done with it would be to make an Ebola vaccine."
Yao left work in January when his research fellowship ended and he signed a document swearing he had not taken any government property, said Plummer.
Plummer said employees are not searched when they leave the building.
"I don't think that would be appropriate. At some point you really have to rely on trust of the individuals and the integrity of the individuals who work in the building."
According to court documents, Yao told U.S. officers that he was headed for a new job with the National Institutes of Health at the Biodefense Research Laboratory in Bethesda, Md., and took the vials so he wouldn't have to start his research again. He told them he had been working on a vaccine for the Ebola virus as well as HIV.
Lynne Jordheim, the U.S. prosecutor handling the case, said Yao has waived his right to a custody review and preliminary hearing. He remains in custody pending an appearance before a grand jury.
In Canada, the matter has been referred to the Winnipeg police to look at possible criminal charges, said Plummer. He said substances like the ones that disappeared from the laboratory are routinely sent between laboratories, crossing international borders, under legal transfer agreements.
"One of the ironies here is that if this individual had gone through appropriate channels, made a request for these materials, it's quite likely he would have got access to them," Plummer said.
He added a breach like this has never happened at the lab before. The vials went unnoticed for so long because there are tens of thousands of them containing non-infectious material in the laboratory's refrigerators and freezers.
"We would never try to have an inventory of every little vial that we have in the laboratory," he said.
"It's absolutely impossible, and no other laboratory in the world would have one inventory of that kind that would allow them to detect this."
Plummer said high-level pathogens are subject to rigorous inventory and the workers who handle them are under strict security.
"We don't have as strict a regime for non-infectious materials."
Security officials and the Treasury Board are reviewing what measures could be improved. But Plummer said the laboratory follows the same procedures as similar labs around the world.
"We have a lot of confidence in security procedures of the laboratory, that we control what needs to be controlled," he said.
Liberal health critic Carolyn Bennett said she was surprised to learn of the missing vials because security at the Winnipeg lab is so strict.
The lab is playing a lead role in testing for the new swine flu virus. It has tested more than 400 specimens from Mexico and has mapped out the genetic sequence of the H1N1 virus.
There should be a better system to track specimens, Bennett said.
"Obviously you can only act on it if you know they're missing. Clearly that needs to be tightened up."
Marion Odell, a retired Toronto nurse who works with the International Institute of Concern for Public Health, said someone at the lab should have noticed the vials were missing.
"I would think that they would be concerned enough to start looking at strengthening their security methods."
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