Last October 24, RCMP and Ottawa police intercepted Nielsen, a well-respected scientist, on his way to the Ottawa airport. Officers found 17 vials of pathogens in Nielsen’s possession that “he was attempting to export in an unsafe manner.“These vials were analyzed by the PHAC and found to contain live brucella bacteria that can infect livestock and humans.”
University of Guelph Prof. Keith Warriner said humans who come in contact with the bacteria can develop flu-like symptoms “that go on and on for months and months.” Warriner told CTV’s Power Play Wednesday that brucella is what is known as a select agent, because it is “very nasty” and highly contagious.
"Three types of the bacteria that cause brucellosis – Brucella abortus, Brucella melitensis andBrucella suis – are designated as select agents. This means that they have the potential to be developed as bioterrorism agents due to their ability to undergo aerosolization." Center for Disease Control
Nielsen had been a seasoned researcher of the bacteria and was part of a team scientists that won a CFIA Technology Transfer Award in 2003 for developing a 15-second test for detecting brucellosis in cattle, the disease caused by brucella.
He is set to appear in a Canadian court on April 17, while Yu, a resident of Ottawa, is believed to be in hiding in China. Local police declined to confirm if extradition would be an option if Yu is apprehended overseas.
Backed up by its clandestine laboratory response team, the Ottawa Fire Services hazmat response team, and Ottawa Police Service first responders, RCMP "intercepted" Nielsen on Oct. 24. According to Rollings, Nielsen at the time was on his way to Ottawa's airport and was scheduled to leave Canada for China.
Upon arresting and searching Nielsen, RCMP said, they found in his possession 17 vials of pathogens which they allege he was "attempting to export in an unsafe manner." PHAC later analyzed the vials and found them to contain live bacteria. Nielsen was then arrested for breach of trust and for "unsafe transportation of a human pathogen."
University of Montreal professor Christian Baron says he and his colleagues are wondering why Nielsen would take the risk of transporting such a readily available bacteria on a plane.
“Brucella is actually a bigger problem in Chinese agriculture than here [in Canada],” said Baron, who is the director of the university’s biochemistry department.
“I really don’t see what the reason would have been.”
The Chinese could easily have found their own bacteria in cattle that are widely infected with the disease in their own country, he sai
- Porcine Brucellosis (Agent US)
- Bovine Brucellosis (Agent AB)
- Caprine Brucellosis (Agent AM)
Ottawa Laboratories (Fallowfield), Canadian Food Inspection Agency,
Nepean, Ontario, Canada