Cholera, salmonella found at home of dead biomedical researcher

LOS ANGELES - Cholera and salmonella germs were found at the Orange County home of a doctor who committed suicide after coming under investigation in connection with a botched hit on a business partner, a newspaper reported Sunday.

The FBI was trying to determine if the bacteria was related to Dr. Larry C. Ford's research with Biofem Pharmaceutical Inc. or was somehow linked to his involvement with the South African military's biological weapons program, the Los Angeles Times said, citing unidentified sources.

The germs were found among dozens of jars taken from Ford's refrigerator and garage in March during evacuation of 200 of his Irvine neighbors. A cache of illegal weapons and explosives were also removed.

The cholera and salmonella germs appeared to have been stored for some time, possibly years, and preliminary tests found that some of the germs were dead but some were alive, the sources said.

The Times sources spoke on condition of anonymity. Telephone messages left Sunday for Los Angeles FBI spokeswoman Cheryl Mimura weren't immediately returned.

It was unclear whether Ford violated any laws by storing or using the bacteria. The bacteria can be obtained from hospital labs for use in legitimate research, said Dr. Kenneth Litwack, an associate professor at University of California, Irvine.

Cholera is a highly contagious intestinal disease that causes severe diarrhea and dehydration and can be fatal if not promptly treated. Salmonella is a leading cause of food poisoning and in rare cases can be fatal.

Ford, an obstetrician and former cancer researcher, committed suicide on March 2, a day after officers searched his home in connection with the Feb. 28 shooting of Biofem chief executive James Patrick Riley.

The sources said the germs found in Ford's home have prompted a closer look at his work as an adviser to South Africa's apartheid-era government on biochemical warfare.

Investigators have released few details about their probe into the Biofem case. Irvine police are investigating the attempted murder of Riley, while the FBI has opened up a ''weapons of mass destruction'' case into the substances found at Ford's home.

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