California officials shut down illegal Chinese-run lab after detection of coronavirus, HIV, hepatitis

Authorities found at least 20 potentially infectious agents, along with over 900 lab mice.


Local and federal public health officials have been investigating an unlicensed, Chinese-owned laboratory in Fresno County, Califonia, where it found at least 20 potentially infectious agents, including coronavirus, HIV, hepatitis, and herpes, along with over 900 lab mice. 

According to the court documents obtained by NBC News, Prestige BioTech was listed as the tenant of the building and other addresses provided to authorities by the company President Xiuquin Yao were "either empty offices or addresses in China that could not be verified."

The documents note that Yao told officials his company was a creditor to Universal Meditch Inc. and had moved its assets into the building after the company went out of business. However, officials did not find any California-based addresses for either company besides the Fresno location, during the investigation. 

City and county officials inspected the location on March 3 and 16 and "Certain rooms of the warehouse were found to contain several vessels of liquid and various apparatus." It 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."

The report also notes that the city found more than 175 dead mice in the warehouse and euthanized 773 more in April after they were found in inhumane conditions. 

Fresno County Public Health Department assistant director Joe Prado said in a statement that the department has been "evaluating and assessing the activities of an unlicensed laboratory" in Reedley. It was noted that the department destroyed all of the chemical agents by July 5. 

"The evaluation required coordination and collaboration with multiple federal and state agencies to determine and classify biological and chemical contents onsite, in addition to assessing jurisdictional authority under this unique situation," Prado added.

"I’ve never seen this in my 26-year career with the County of Fresno," he said of the situation. "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."

Reedley City Manager Nicole Zieba, told KSEE/KGPE, "This is an unusual situation. I’ve been in government for 25 years. I’ve never seen anything like this." He added, "There are no more biologicals. There are no more mice, but they still will see us abating, 30 freezers and fridges, medical equipment, and all sorts of furniture in there. They’ll still see some activity, nothing hazardous at this point." 

He noted that the investigation is still ongoing, and Yao has not been forthcoming with information, but that there is no real public concern at this time. 

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