16 Sept 2004
Foot and Mouth
Mr. Yeo: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what the evidential basis was for the conclusion in the report, Origin of the UK Foot and Mouth Disease Epidemic in 2001, that the February 2001 UK outbreak and the September 2000 South African outbreak had a common origin rather than the South African outbreak being the origin of the UK outbreak; and if she will publish the results of the phylogenetic analyses which were undertaken; 
(2) what outbreaks of the foot and mouth virus have been identified by the Government as providing a plausible common origin for the February 2001 UK outbreak and the September 2000 South African outbreak; 
(3) if she will publish the results of further analyses of the genome sequences of isolates from the February 2001 UK and the September 2000 South African foot and mouth disease outbreaks and their likely origins, performed since the publication of the report on the Origin of the UK Foot and Mouth Disease Epidemic in 2001; 
(4) whether a foot and mouth disease outbreak isolate with a closer phylogenetic relationship to the February 2001 UK outbreak than the September 2000 South African outbreak has been identified. 
Margaret Beckett: The conclusion, in the report of the Origin UK Foot and Mouth Disease Epidemic in 2001, that the UK and South African epidemics are likely to arise from a common origin, rather than the South African outbreak being the source for the UK outbreak, is based on knowledge of the history of the disease pattern and control measures in place in both countries rather than any direct evidence from phylogenetic analyses. The detailed evidence for this conclusion is set out clearly in the main body and annexes 5 and 6 of the report published by my Department in June 2002. The report may be found at http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/inquiries/lessons/fmdorigins.pdf.
Phylogenetic analyses alone cannot attribute causal relationships between outbreaks and can only provide data on the similarity between isolates. The following
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two papers have been published on the possible origin of the UK 2001 outbreak. They include details of the phylogenetic analyses, the first comparing only VP1 sequence data and the second on the complete genome sequences:
Knowles, N.J., Samuel, A.R., Davies, P.R., Kitching, R.P. and Donaldson, A.I. (2001). Outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease virus serotype O in the UK caused by a pandemic strain. Veterinary Record 148: 258–259.
Mason, P.W., Pacheco, J.M., Zhao, Q.-Z. and Knowles, N.J. (2003). Comparisons of the complete genomes of Asian, African and European isolates of a recent foot-and-mouth disease virus type O pandemic strain (PanAsia). Journal of General Virology 84: 1583–1593.
No viruses have been submitted to the World Reference Laboratory (WRL) for foot and mouth disease which have a closer relationship to either the South Africa 2000 or the UK 2001 than these two viruses have to each other. The most closely related virus that is in the WRL collection to these viruses originated from Japan in 2000. However, as indicated above, this should not be taken to indicate a causal relationship between the Japanese and other isolates. Due to the widespread distribution of the pan-Asia strain and its limited genetic diversity, phylogenetic analysis is unlikely to provide further information on any possible common origin for the UK and South African outbreaks.
Copies of the two scientific papers referred to above will be placed in the Library of the House.