Illegal lab found full of bioengineered mice and infectious diseases

A zoo technician holds a laboratory rat.

  • An illegal medical lab was discovered by investigators in a warehouse in Fresno, California.
  • The laboratory was filled with bioengineered mice and samples of diseases such as COVID-19, HIV and herpes.
  • About 1,000 mice were found, of which almost 200 were already dead. The rest were euthanized.

An illegal California lab containing nearly 1,000 bioengineered mice has officials worried after improperly stored tissue samples were tested and found to contain infectious diseases including HIV and hepatitis.

“This is an unusual situation. I’ve been in government for 25 years. I’ve never seen anything like this,” Reedley City Manager Nicole Zieba told the local news outlet. KRON4.

The makeshift laboratory contained about 30 refrigerators and freezers – some of which were non-operational – as well as incubators, medical testing supplies and hundreds of mice. Several disease samples tested from the lab included infectious agents such as herpes, coronavirus, E. Coli and malaria, SFist reported.

Wang Zhaolin, a representative of the company that runs the lab, Prestige Biotech, told investigators that the mice inside the warehouse had been genetically engineered to catch and spread the COVID-19 virus, according to San Joaquin Valley Sun.

The warehouse was investigated in March after local law enforcement discovered a garden hose attached to a back wall of the building. As officials searched, medical equipment that appeared to have been created at the site, such as COVID-19 and pregnancy tests, were also discovered, NBC News reported.

“Certain rooms in the warehouse were found to contain multiple containers of liquid and various devices,” NBC reported in court documents related to the incident. “Fresno County Public Health personnel also observed blood, tissue and other body fluid samples and serum, and thousands of vials of unlabeled fluids and suspected biological material.”

Nearly 800 of the mice found inside the warehouse were euthanized by officials, according to NBC. Another approximately 175 mice were already dead when they were discovered.

“There were over 800 different chemicals at the site in different bottles of different acids,” Fresno County Department of Public Health Assistant Director Joe Prado told KRON4. “Unfortunately, many of these are categorized under unknown chemicals.”

All biohazardous material at the lab has been destroyed by July 7, NBC reported, although an investigation into the lab’s origins and activity remains ongoing.

The CDC and the Fresno County Department of Public Health did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.

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