After coming under fire from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Elon Musk’s brain-computer interface company Neuralink is under investigation by the Department of Transportation for allegedly risking human exposure to deadly pathogens via contaminated hardware, CNBC reported Feb. 11.
In 2019, untrained Neuralink employees allegedly mishandled implants removed from the brains of monkeys that may have been contaminated with antibiotic-resistant pathogens including Staphylococcus and Klebsiella and other bacteria, and viruses including herpes B.
The devices may also have been contaminated with Corynebacterium ulcerans, a recognized “emerging human pathogen” that can produce fatal diphtheria, according to a PCRM news release.
The PCRM obtained records from the University of California Davis, a Neuralink research partner, that showed researchers raised concerns about mishandled materials.
“Since the hardware components of the explanted neural device are not sealed and it was not disinfected prior to leaving the Primate Center, this presents a hazard for anyone potentially coming in contact with the device,” the UC Davis staffer said in an email. “Simply labeling it ‘hazardous’ doesn’t account for the risk of potentially contracting Herpes B.”
Later, a UC Davis employee wrote that “devices had made their way back [to the university] in an open box,” and that “we are making a big deal about this because we are concerned for human safety.”
Neuralink did not respond to CNBC’s request for comment.