- An illegal medical lab was discovered by investigators in a warehouse in Fresno, California.
- The lab was full of bioengineered mice and samples of diseases like COVID-19, HIV, and herpes.
- Roughly 1,000 mice were found, with nearly 200 already dead. The rest were euthanized.
An illegal lab in California containing nearly 1,000 bioengineered mice has officials concerned after improperly stored tissue samples were tested and discovered 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 said, per local news outlet KRON4.
The makeshift lab contained roughly 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 like herpes, coronavirus, E. Coli, and malaria, SFist reported.
Wang Zhaolin, a representative of the company operating 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 The San Joaquin Valley Sun.
The warehouse came under investigation in March after a local code enforcement officer discovered a garden hose attached to a back wall of the building. As officials searched, medical devices that appeared to have been created on-site, such as COVID-19 and pregnancy tests, were also discovered, NBC News reported.
“Certain rooms of the warehouse were found to contain several vessels of liquid and various apparatus,” NBC reported court documents related to the incident said. “Fresno County Public Health staff also observed blood, tissue and other bodily fluid samples and serums; and thousands of vials of unlabeled fluids and suspected biological material.”
Nearly 800 of the mice found inside the warehouse were euthanized by officials, per NBC. An additional approximately 175 mice were already dead when they were discovered.
“There was over 800 different chemicals on site in different bottles of different acids,” KRON4 reported the assistant director of the Fresno County Department of Public Health, Joe Prado, said. “Unfortunately, a lot of these are being categorized under unknown chemicals.”
All of the biohazard material within the lab has been destroyed as of July 7, NBC reported, though an investigation into the lab’s origins and activity remains ongoing.
The CDC and Fresno County Department of Public Health did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.