Investigators in California have reportedly raided a secret and unlicensed laboratory stocked with roughly 1,000 lab mice, NBC News reports, alongside vessels of human blood and numerous infectious diseases including herpes, hepatitis and HIV.
"I’ve been in government for 25 years. I’ve never seen anything like this," Nicole Zieba, city manager for the city of Reedley, told news broadcaster KRON-TV.
The sting got kickstarted in early March after local code inspectors were looking at a warehouse for a code-violating garden hose when they stumbled across the bootleg lab, according to another area broadcaster, KSEE.
Further searches uncovered 773 lab mice, along with 178 already dead mice, NBC reports. In addition, investigators found numerous vessels containing blood and other body fluids, as well as — scarily — diseases such as COVID-19, hepatitis, herpes and more.
The bizarre details of the story make it an extreme outlier in the buttoned-up world of medical research — but whether misconduct at the facility was the result of mismanagement or something more lurid remains to be seen.
The warehouse tenant, an outfit called Prestige BioTech, had apparently taken over a defunct business, Universal Meditech Inc., and moved its assets into the warehouse, according to NBC. Prestige, based in Nevada, reportedly had no license to operate in California.
When investigators busted the lab, they found 36 refrigerators, incubators and improperly stored hazardous medical waste — besides the alarming amount of infectious diseases.
Investigators believe the facility was working on producing its own COVID and pregnancy tests, according to NBC.
Local officials told KRON-TV that they have disposed of all the icky biohazard stuff, in addition to the surviving mice being euthanized.
Aside from the extreme weirdness of the whole situation — unlicensed clinics doing sketchy biological research? — the lab's secrecy and its subsequent bust could well become fodder for bizarre new medical conspiracy theories. And that's the last thing we need.
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