Destruction of Legionella collection shows inconsistencies in federal handling

By George Miller

As the wheels of Congress start grinding out legislation to protect federally funded biospecimen collections from inadvertent and malicious destruction, practitioners are of two minds about the government involvement.

The House Science and Technology Committee investigations and oversight subcommittee in September questioned officials of the Veterans Administration (VA) Pittsburgh Health Service on the destruction of a collection of Legionella bacteria. The destruction was ordered by Dr. Mona Melhem, associate chief of staff for clinical services in December 2006, just as arrangements were being made to transfer the collection to another facility.

In less than three hours, the 30-year collection was destroyed, according to testimony.

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