Bitter Irony Of Latest Foot And Mouth Outbreak

UK - It is a bitter irony. The government laboratory at the centre of the latest outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the UK is one of five institutions leading a new effort to tackle the disease worldwide. Just 11 days ago, it co-published a report detailing how difficult the task would be.
calendar icon 6 August 2007
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On Sunday, scientists at the Institute for Animal Health (IAH) in Pirbright, Surrey, confirmed that cattle at a nearby farm were infected with foot and mouth virus. The UK has remained free of the virus since the previous major outbreak in 2001, which caused a national crisis and cost its economy over £4 billion.

IAH scientists have now identified the strain responsible for the latest outbreak as very close to 01/BFS, a strain originally isolated in 1967 that is used for research and commercial vaccine production. It has not circulated in Europe for 40 years.

An independent review is taking place to ascertain the source of the outbreak, with experts believing it either originated at the IAH laboratory itself or at the laboratory of animal vaccine manufacturer Merial, which is housed next door. As New Scientist went to press, the IAH said there was no evidence that any biosafety procedures had been breached at its Pirbright laboratory.

Global alliance
Just 10 days before the latest outbreak was confirmed, a report was published in the journal Vaccine that called for more work to be done into controlling foot and mouth disease (FMD).

The report was co-authored by scientists from the world's five leading FMD research centres, including the IAH in Pirbright, two leading labs from the US Department of Agriculture based in Greenport, New York, and Beltsville, Maryland, a CSIRO lab in Geelong, Australia, and the National Center for Foreign Animal Disease in Winnipeg, Canada.

Source: NewScientist

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