Officials Shut Down Illegal Lab In Cali

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In a recent investigation, officials discovered an illegal warehouse in Reedley, California that was storing multiple types of pathogens and dead or nearly dead mice. The Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported finding at least 20 infectious viral, bacterial, and parasitic agents. The warehouse, which was operated by a company called Prestige Biotech, Inc., was allegedly led by Chinese national Xiuquin Yao.

Upon further investigation, Joe Prado, assistant director of the Fresno County Department of Public Health, reported discovering over 800 different chemicals in numerous bottles of acids. He also recounted an email exchange he had with a representative of Prestige, David He, where He asked for a list of the agents and Prado provided information repeatedly. However, He allegedly never provided evidence that Prestige was licensed for medical waste disposal.

“I’ve never seen this in my 26-year career with the County of Fresno,” Prado stated. “So there was over 800 different chemicals on site in different bottles of different acids. Unfortunately, a lot of these are being categorized under unknown chemicals.”

The findings from the investigation highlight the importance for keeping track of disease-causing agents and monitoring practices of those researching and collecting them. The dangers of storing debris, material, and infectious agents without sufficient licensing can play into the public health risk for the local community.

During the investigation, the Prestige representative onsite, Wang Zhaolin, said some of the mice found “were genetically engineered to catch and carry the COVID-19 virus.”

Currently, officials are working to remove all pathogens from the warehouse in Reedley, and are attempting to identify who was responsible for the storage and operation of the facility. It is unclear what the end plan was for the agents, but the lack of documentation upon investigation is of concern.

“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 added.

“There were some statements by individuals who were going into the facility and dump [waste] into their waste bin,” Prado said. “After that, it would go to the landfill.”