The lab — a part of the University of Texas Medical Branch — noticed the missing vial of pathogen during an inspection last week, reports ABC News.
The virus is called Guanarito and it can cause hemorrhagic fever. While it is normally only found in rodents in Venezuela, it does have some capacity to spread to humans. Researchers don’t believe it has the capacity to spread to North American rodents.
Speaking about humans who do contract the virus, Dr. Michael Kurilla of the National Institutes of Health said, “The mortality is anywhere from at least 10 to 20 percent or slightly more. That is considered very, very severe if you have a 1 in 5 chance of dying without anything to do for the person other than provide supportive hospital care.”
The lab is investigating the missing vial. Researchers say that the most likely reason it is missing is that it was inadvertently destroyed in a routine lab clean up process. The lab has four more vials of Guanarito for its research.