U.S. Customs Destroys Biological Samples Taken from Prof at Detroit Metro Airport

Dec. 17, 2020

Dec. 17—The U.S. Customs and Border Protection "ultimately destroyed" a Poland professor's biological samples after they weren't able to identify what the vials held at Detroit Metro Airport last month.

On Nov. 14, a man identified as a published professor on infectious and systemic diseases from Poland was questioned by the agency's agriculture specialists when they found a number of unknown biological samples in his luggage, the agency said in a news release.

Officials later identified the contents of the vials as nonhazardous, noninfectious genetically modified neutrophils, which are immune cells that help fight infections, according to the National Cancer Institute.

"CBP plays a critical role in protecting public health, as well as mitigating the effects of prohibited biological items," said area port director Robert Larkin in a statement. "I'm proud of the work our officers and agriculture specialists do every day to prohibit the unauthorized entry of biological materials into the United States."

The professor told officials the biological vials were for his research in Poland, but he could not produce related research material or documents as evidence, according to border protection.

A search through his bags found the samples packaged in dry ice. The samples were destroyed, according to the release.

According to Customs and Border Protection, biological materials must be clearly marked, labeled and packaged in accordance with federal and state requirements for transportd.


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