First U.S. scientist to die of plague in 50 years worked in labs with ‘harmless’ bacteria

Daily Mail, Feb. 28, 2011

A scientist died after becoming the first American researcher to contract the plague in 50 years, it has been revealed.

Malcolm Casadaban, 60, was working with a weakened form of the plague’s bacteria thought to be harmless to humans when he died in September 2009, a report said. The University of Chicago genetics and cell biology professor’s work with the live bacteria was not even noted when he fell ill and he followed proper safety protocols.

Dr Casadaban had the hereditary condition ‘hemochromatosis’, causing an excessive build-up of iron and potentially making people more vulnerable to the plague, an autopsy said.

Dr Alexander said he believed Dr Casadaban would have had one comment for the university officials and scientists meeting after the tragic event. ‘Listen guys, I’m trying to teach you something – and you better damn well learn it.’

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