Illegal medical lab found in California with dead mice and infectious agents | World News - Hindustan Times

Illegal medical lab found with deadly COVID pathogens and diseased mice in California warehouse

Aug 02, 2023 06:30 AM IST

Illegal medical lab found in California warehouse with hundreds of dead mice and infectious agents, including COVID-19. Criminal investigation ongoing.

A routine hose inspection led to the discovery of an illegal medical lab operating inside a warehouse in California, where hundreds of dead mice and vials of infectious agents were found.

Underground biohazard lab unearthed in California warehouse(Reedley City Manager Nicole Zieba)
Underground biohazard lab unearthed in California warehouse(Reedley City Manager Nicole Zieba)

The lab, run by Prestige BioTech, a Nevada-based company not registered in California, was working with at least 20 dangerous viruses, bacteria, and parasites, including COVID-19, E. Coli, malaria, HIV, hepatitis, and herpes, according to court documents filed at the Superior Court of the State of California.

The City of Reedley’s code enforcement team found the lab last December, when they noticed a green garden hose running through the abandoned property. When they knocked on the door, they realized a business was operating without permission.

In March, health officials inspected the area and were shocked by what they saw.

“There was over 800 different chemicals on site in different bottles of different acids. Unfortunately, a lot of these are being categorized under unknown chemicals,” Joe Prado, the Assistant Director of the Fresno County Department of Public Health, told KSEE.

“A lot of these labels have been removed from bottles so there was only so much testing we could do. I’ve never seen this in my 26-year career with the County of Fresno,” he added.

Harmful biohazard chemicals(Superior Court of the State of California)
Harmful biohazard chemicals(Superior Court of the State of California)

Officials also found nearly 1,000 diseased and bioengineered mice, with about 200 of them already dead. According to the court documents, the workers at the lab claimed they were developing COVID and pregnancy tests.

On July 7, officials destroyed the hazardous materials and euthanized 773 of the surviving rats. The CDC tested the infectious agents and confirmed their identities, according to the US Department of Health and Humans Services.

Some of the materials had labels in English and Chinese, according to photos of the lab released in the court documents.

Prestige BioTech is accused of failing to comply with orders, including providing plans for biological abatement and disposal of hazardous materials.

A criminal investigation is ongoing.

Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld told ABC30 Monday that the city is still trying to figure out what was going on at the lab and whether it had any connection to Fresno.

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“We, the city of Fresno, will certainly be doing our due diligence with this situation, looking at any relationship that occurred in the city with this lab or what they may be trying to do in the future,” Bredefeld said.

County health officials assured that there is no risk to the public as local and federal officials continue working to clear the warehouse before demolishing the building.

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