STOP PRESS 6/8/07 2200 hrs (DEFRA) Further Case of Foot and Mouth Disease Suspected in Protection Zone
As part of their surveillance activity within the larger Protection Zone in Surrey, Animal Health have identified a further herd of cattle which have clinical signs of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). Debby Reynolds, Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO), has therefore ordered their slaughter on suspicion of FMD. Update 7/8 confirmed case.
Institute of Animal health laboratory at Compton closed in February
The BBC are reporting Online, on the 10.0.clock news that an Institute for Animal health laboratory at Compton in Berkshire "remains closed". Compton's work is focused on immunology, genetics and genomics of cattle and poultry, transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), viral and parasitic diseases of poultry, and bacterial food-borne zoonoses including bovine tuberculosis, Salmonella, Campylobacter and enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli.
In February, the laboratory was served a prohibition notice (by whom ?) and 15 cattle at the site were destroyed because of "serious risks" were found involving the ventilation system.
Defra said (today ?) they were aware of previous issues at Compton but believed they had been "acted upon and fully investigated". (Pic at Pirbright is circa 2004)
Crisis in Agricultural Science Research funding
The Education Guradian today, have an excellent article about the funding crisis in land based research programs caused by the steady reductions in DEFRA funding for IAH and other centres and the increasing emphasis on environmental research.
The BBSRC core strategic grant to the IAH is crucial for the maintenance of the science base, yet in 2003/4 it comprised just 27% of total income. Defra funding is focused in particular on statutory surveillance activities and research into TSEs, exotic viruses, bacterial zoonoses and serious endemic diseases and in 2003-4 represented 28% of IAH total income.
DEFRA's own science advisory council warned last year that changes in Defra's policy and funding are having a "significant impact" on science activity and expertise, with a significant number of science jobs being lost.
To put the costs and research strategy of the IAH into perspective, it is worth noting that the total value of UK livestock production in 2004 was £8.3 billion, which is a 16% decrease since 1995 but an 11% increase since the low of 2001. The total income of the IAH from all sources during 2003/4 was approximately £35 million. Cattle and milk products account for 60% of livestock value, poultry and eggs for 20%, sheep for 12% and pigs for 8%. Since 1995 there has been an overall 20% reduction in dairy cattle, 4% reduction in beef cattle, 18% reduction in sheep and 33% reduction in pigs. Over the same time period the number of poultry has increased by 32% (all figures from http://statistics.defra.gov.uk). Pic from Porton Down circa 1960.
By the way IAH say they spend some 24% on F & M research and 3% on Bird Flu. It is also worth noting that a report is awaited about the chances of Pirbright IAH or meriel vaccine plant as a source - pound to a pinch of snuff the result will be "ambiguous".
Those with a long memory might look back at the IAH 201 Annual report Page 25 -
" the source of the current FMD outbreak in the UK has still to be determined. (still the case today 7/8/07)
Further analysis of the UK virus showed that it was closely related to the O1 Manisa strain held as concentrated inactivated viral antigen in the International Vaccine Bank and that this strain could be used to vaccinate animals, if required. This antigen was formulated into 500,000 doses of vaccine and held ready for use.
The International Vaccine Bank at the Institute for Animal Health, Pirbright, has eight members: Australia, Ireland ,Finland, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom ,Malta
Within 72 hours of request, 300 000 doses of vaccine can be formulated. Currently, the following vaccine strains are stored at the IVB: O1 Lausanne, O1 Manisa, A22 Iraq, A24 Cruzeiro, C1 Oberhaven ,ASIA 1, India A15 Thailand
It is said that the FMV strain isolated by IAH scientists from the first outbreak have now identified the virus strain as very close to 01/BFS, a strain isolated originally in 1967 and propagated as a Reference Laboratory strain used for research and commercial vaccine production. It has not circulated in Europe for 40 years.
Where is Mr Benn's £120 million Pirbright IAH laboratory development ?
On several occasions in TV / Press / Radio interviews Mr Hilary Benn sometimes described as the Minister for DEFRA referred to the "development" of a £120 Mn lab at Pirbright, he didn't mention it on Newsnight ... or the closed laboratory at Compton. The devastatingly beautiful Emily Maitlis let us down and allowed Mr Benn rant on like a clockwork doll, as she ceaselessly twiddled her pen.
The reason is, that ..... "The working relationship between Defra and the IAH will be further refined by the project to redevelop the Pirbright Laboratory. Co-location of the Virology Department from VLA Weybridge to the Pirbright site will provide the UK with a new national centre of excellence in veterinary virology by around 2011/12. " ... and that is exactly what it was in 2005 .. a project, and still is in 2007 .. no funds are available / allocated, but here is an artists impression... nothing has changed since then.
For more about IAH plans read Science Strategy IAH 2005 - 2015