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NIH may have missed rogue smallpox sample

Two congressmen say the National Institutes of Health might have missed a chance to find an illegal sample of smallpox in one of its labs nine years before it was eventually discovered.

Representatives Greg Walden, Republican of Oregon, and Tim Murphy, Republican of Pennsylvania, made the accusation in a letter to NIH director Francis Collins written on 11 July.

In July 2014, Food and Drug Administration researchers working in an NIH building in Maryland came across several vials containing the variola virus, which causes smallpox, in an unsecured refrigerator. The World Health Organization only allows two official repositories of variola and this was not one of them. Government scientists later confirmed that the virus was viable, though no one is thought to have been exposed.

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