Debora MacKenzie in New Scientist:
The virus that caused the 1957 “Asian flu” pandemic has been accidentally released by a lab in the US, and sent all over the world in test kits which scientists are now scrambling to destroy.
There are fears the virus could escape the labs, as the mistake was discovered after the virus escaped from a kit at a high-containment lab in Canada. Such an escape could spread worldwide, as demonstrated in Russia in the 1970s.
The flu testing kits were sent to some 3700 labs between October 2004 and February 2005 by the College of American Pathologists (CAP), a professional body which helps pathology laboratories improve their accuracy, by sending them unidentified samples of various germs to identify.
The CAP kits – prepared by private contractor Meridian Bioscience in Cincinnati, US – were to contain a particular strain of influenza A – the viral family that causes most flu worldwide. But instead of choosing a strain from the hundreds of recently circulating influenza A viruses, the firm chose the 1957 pandemic strain.