labwork A 10 year Italian police investigation, involving wiretapping and the surveillance of approximately 40 people, apparently uncovered the illegal conspiracy to profit off avian flu outbreaks and undocumented trading of virus/vaccine.

Among other researchers, Ilaria Capua apparently collaborated with executives at an Italian animal vaccine company, Merial, to sell an unauthorized vaccines and/or viruses for extensive profit. In their report, the police cite a conversation between Merial manager, Paolo Candoli, and a colleague in which he says,

“We bought it in Padua. We paid for it handsomely, as we did with all the strains we bought from her.”

Although the expose in the magazine Science does not cite many specific examples, they claim to have comprehensively worked through the entire 400-page, unreleased, study. With the headline reading “Italian probe depicts web of scandal, including illegal animal vaccines and deliberate outbreaks,” we can only assume that this may be far more shocking than what Capua claims is simply a “misunderstanding.”

The fact remains that there are an ever-increasing number of BSL-4 laboratories, which can handle experimental, extremely virulent/deadly/infectious agents, and BSL-3 laboratories (which deal with less infectious agents), the probability of accidental or deliberate outbreaks increases. When scientists are already prepared to illegally sell viruses or vaccines to interested buyers, then the risk of a “12 Monkeys” scenario becomes even greater.