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Published: Saturday June 21, 2014 MYT 7:05:02 AM
Updated: Saturday June 21, 2014 MYT 7:06:33 AM

CDC cedes anthrax probe to USDA to avoid conflict of interest

(Reuters) - The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday it will cede control of the investigation into a safety breach that exposed 84 people at three CDC laboratories to live anthrax to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In normal circumstances, such an investigation would be conducted by the CDC's Division of Select Agents and Toxins (DSAT), which has special expertise in handling pathogens.

The division is part of the federal Select Agent Program which also comprises the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

"To avoid potential conflicts of interest, APHIS will be conducting the investigation instead of DSAT," Benjamin Haynes, a CDC spokesman, said.

The Select Agent Program oversees the possession, use and transfer of biological select agents and toxins, which have the potential to pose a severe threat to the public, animals or plants.

(Reporting by Toni Clarke in Washington; Editing by Bill Trott)

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