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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; [183398]

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

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:

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.