Foot and Mouth disease in 2001 - remembered in 2006
Mr Brown's words now "appear to point the finger for the policy squarely at Downing Street and the Prime Minister." (see below)
Sept 30 2006 ~ It is the duty of all those involved in foot and mouth to remind the next government and those thereafter that we will not tolerate short-term cost cutting policies that cost the country dearly in the long run..."
This quotation from the submission to the Royal Society of Edinburgh Inquiry by two eminent veterinary surgeons seems ever more urgent. Costs are still being cut. Pirbright, as the World Reference Center, should be a disinterested party for the evaluation of FMD technology - but how can it be when forced into commercialisation?
Because of savage cuts in funding, IAH Pirbright has become less and less a public servant over the years. The refusal to collaborate over the rapid on-site diagnosis that could have saved prevented so much misery, a letter to Fred Brown, dated 5 November 1997 is significant: "we have ultimately decided it is not in our interests to collaborate with a company which intends to develop a commercial diagnostic kit in direct competition to our own intentions."
October 16 - Oct 22 2004 ~ "an institution guarding its research and exclusive status?"
Mr Nicholas Soames asked (Oct 19 2004) of Mrs Beckett (PQ 191755) "what research she has evaluated on onsite polymerase chain reaction real time technology for diagnosis of animal and plant disease."Back to warmwell.com website
Mr Ben Bradshaw's not altogether straightforward answer included this
"....work is continuing at the Institute for Animal Health on the development of novel assays for early, rapid and pen-side ('on-site') testing for foot and mouth disease. The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory has also launched a joint venture with industry to develop the technology's wider potential to provide reliable diagnostic tests for animal diseases. .."The full reply from Mr Bradshaw may be read here
We are reminded of Dr Watkins submission to the Royal Society of Edinburgh Inquiry in 2002 in which she questioned Pirbright's monopoly
"... typical of an institution guarding its research and exclusive status. Is it hoping to suppress competition to its own tests? Does it stand to financially benefit? ....DEFRA refused to collaborate with an independent UK laboratory, Micropathology Ltd, to allow it to develop a sensitive and real time PCR test for the epidemic FMD strain. Neither was competition allowed from within the veterinary science establishment......an offer of help came from the USDA collaborating with Tetracore .... ..... Pirbright turned down the offer on the grounds of "lack of time". Seven months later Pirbright took the very same machine and started their own laboratory trials. ..... a bottleneck of FMD testing at Pirbright was unnecessarily created. ." (See below)See also warmwell pages on technical advances in rapid diagnosis and the reluctance of the UK to make use of it for FMD.
Extract from Dr Watkins submission to the Royal Society of Edinburgh FMD Enquiry 2002
Pirbright has an unchallenged monopoly on FMD work in both research and diagnosis in Britain.
Pirbright is the designated UK reference laboratory for exotic animal pathogens and also the World Reference Laboratory for FMD. The normal role of a reference laboratory is to provide control materials and facilitate the setting up of routine screening and diagnostic tests in other laboratories as clinically appropriate (as during a national epidemic for example). Another important role is the validation of diagnostic tests including commercial tests and publishing the results with the collaboration of the commercial companies. The reference laboratory acts as a fund of expertise and also receives difficult specimens.
Pirbright has confined itself to in-house tests, producing the materials and developing its own protocols. It has refused to undertake validation of commercial FMD tests such as those produced by Michael Walker at Genesis. There is no other laboratory in Britain that is allowed or could undertake to validate FMD tests - it is a breach of duty that this has been allowed to pass. In clinical diagnostic laboratories it is well recognised that it is difficult to produce and quality control in-house tests. Commercial companies are rather better at this than most laboratories could sustain, particularly in the present climate as ever greater work efficiency is required. The insistence on in-house tests and the refusal to share expertise and materials is typical of an institution guarding its research and exclusive status. Is it hoping to suppress competition to its own tests? Does it stand to financially benefit? The interest of the clients is not best served, and 'service' is the operative word, by such attitudes. A professional diagnostic service should be provided and that entails the use tests appropriate to the clinical need, such as a rapid sensitive test for the presence of virus that the PCR test provides.
The ministry and MAFF / DEFRA refused to collaborate with an independent UK laboratory, Micropathology Ltd, to allow it to develop a sensitive and real time PCR test for the epidemic FMD strain. Neither was competition allowed from within the veterinary science establishment in providing a PCR test so that an independent second opinion on the presence of FMD virus in any animal was denied.
On the 9th of March 2001, an offer of help came from the USDA collaborating with Tetracore to provide a sensitive real time PCR farmgate test and if required an experienced team to carry out the work. It had been successfully laboratory tested by the USDA and required validation in the field. Its convenient size, speed and simplicity of use was even demonstrated here on BBC television by Tetracore. But Pirbright turned down the offer on the grounds of lack of time. Seven months later Pirbright took the very same machine and started their own laboratory trials. Failing in the first instance to get good results, they went to press (The Veterinary Record 6 Oct 2001)* where they falsely claimed that Cepheid, the manufacturer of the PCR machine, had recommended and provided the wrong materials. Later in the same letter they triumphantly claim success by changing to those they would normally use - Cepheid do not provide or give advice on test materials. What is going on at Pirbright?
Tests that do not amplify infectious virus can be done in laboratories in less than the containment level-4 facilities that are required for amplification of FMD virus in tissue culture or in animal work. Virus must however be inactivated. This is normally done before antibody or antigen testing or doing a PCR test. Thus these tests could have been done more widely particularly during an epidemic of FMD. Latterly the ELISA screening test, only, was farmed out to other laboratories including CAMR at Porton Down. The safety standards of laboratories have greatly improved since 1967 and it therefore seems that a bottleneck of FMD testing at Pirbright was unnecessarily created.
October 16 - Oct 22 2004 ~ Either motivation is equally unethical and retarded development of FMD immunoassays
A reminder of the letter from United Biomedical Inc. to the Royal Society Inquiry of Edinburgh
" IAH Pirbright is now involved with a competitor of UBI for the commercialization of their own NS test so it appears that their lack of cooperation may have been due to an economic conflict of interest. To put a kinder light on it, perhaps they simply decided to retain an intellectual exclusivity to FMD immunoassays. .."If Pirbright, formerly a "public service" laboratory, is now forced to make money in the market place for its very survival, questions should surely be asked as to why.
February 20th 2006 ~ FMD five years on...
"....Hard work and long hours is no substitute for proactive research on world leading control programs and education of DEFRA staff on the technologies to prepare them for the worst eventuality. There is no point to any of these inquiries if the lessons are learned and forgotten again. It is the duty of all those involved in foot and mouth to remind the next government and those thereafter that we will not tolerate short-term cost cutting policies that cost the country dearly in the long run. Prevention is better than cure and that must be the focus for the future. " A quotation from the submission to the Royal Society of Edinburgh Inquiry by Ronan M.T. Fleming B.V.M.S. M.R.C.V.S. and George D. Curran M.R.C.V.S. (Read in full) ( new window)
20th February 2006 ~ Five years on... "really quite an achievement and I think a magnificent record..." said David King of the FMD tragedy
The transcript of Professor David King's interview on the Today Programme 18th December 2002 shows that he did not grasp what was available at the time of the outbreak.
"What we had at our disposal at that time left us with the cull policy to control the epidemic."Yet Uruguay successfully used both vaccination and the rapid on-site RT-PCR machine, developed by ARS in the US and offered to the UK Government and David King in particular at the start of our own crisis.
20th February 2006 ~ Five years on... RT-PCR available then, available now
See warmwell pages on the on-site rapid diagnosis kit, rejected by the UK government in 2001. Also Roger Breeze's letter to warmwell.
There is still no mention of RT-PCR in the new Generic Contingency Plan. A review this year ( J Vet Diagn Invest 18:9397 (2006) Detection of foot-and-mouth disease virus: comparative diagnostic sensitivity of two independent real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction assays by Donald P. King,1 Nigel P. Ferris, Andrew E. Shaw, Scott M. Reid, Geoff H. Hutchings, Angelica C. Giuffre, John M. Robida, Johnny D. Callahan, William M. Nelson, Tammy R. Beckham concludes
"... even when used independently, these rRT-PCR assays offer superior sensitivity over established diagnostic tests. This report provides further confidence in the use of this method for routine diagnosis of FMD and re-emphasizes the effectiveness of rRT-PCR as a diagnostic tool for routine FMD detection and control."Read in full ( pdf new window)
February 20th 2006 ~ Five years on..."Following Orders" reminds us of what it was really like
"Following Orders" by James Drew is a novel based on the real events and experiences of a vet during the FMD epidemic and it is published today. Only partly fiction, it reveals in heartbreaking detail how politicians, intimidated farmers and those merely "following orders" can so easily be drawn into creating a catastrophe. More details can be seen at Amazon.co.uk
February 20th 2006 ~ Five years on....Ben Gill and vaccination
Writing in the Farmers Guardian in 2002, Alastair Driver wrote:
"...... the Government's submission to the Anderson inquiry said: "Farmers unions were strongly opposed throughout." These words were echoed by Nick Brown in his evidence to the EU inquiry.Read in full
Responding to Mr Brown, Helen O'Hare, a temporary vet erinary inspector during the crisis, said the NFU did not represent the majority of farmers and were not experts at disease control. Writing on the Warmwell website, she also attacked the excuse that a two tier domestic market would have developed, claiming the consumer already buys vaccinated meat and EU money was available to offset losses. Countering other reasons put forward by the Government for not vaccinating, she said "There were enough vaccines available and blanket vaccination would have eliminated the disease within one month. There is no scientific reason for a 12 month ban on exports following vaccination and the EU could end all financial penalties of using vaccination at a stroke."
February 20th 2006 ~ Five years on....
Nick Brown 'remembers' the contiguous cull policy..... Western Morning News " CHIEF VET AND I BOTH OPPOSED FMD CULL ...
Mr Brown ("Nigel Brawn" in the novel Following Orders) said there had been "tensions" between Dr Scudamore and the Government's Chief Scientist Dr David King, who was advising Mr Blair directly and who was seen as being the architect of the contiguous cull. "That was the recommendation of the chief scientist who put it directly to the Prime Minister." The WMN comments that Mr Brown's words now "appear to point the finger for the policy squarely at Downing Street and the Prime Minister."
In December 2002 on the Today Programme, Professor David King was asked by James Naughtie,
"Do you think that the criticism that we got it wrong, that it was slow and it was cumbersome and in many respects the wrong policies were adopted is fair?"His answers showed no acknowledgement of any mistakes whatsoever.