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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..."

October 16 - Oct 22 2004 ~ "an institution guarding its research and exclusive status?"

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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

Amnesia Creep

February 20th 2006 ~ FMD five years on...

20th February 2006 ~ Five years on... "really quite an achievement and I think a magnificent record..." said David King of the FMD tragedy

20th February 2006 ~ Five years on... RT-PCR available then, available now

February 20th 2006 ~ Five years on..."Following Orders" reminds us of what it was really like

February 20th 2006 ~ Five years on....Ben Gill and vaccination

February 20th 2006 ~ Five years on....


In December 2002 on the Today Programme, Professor David King was asked by James Naughtie, His answers showed no acknowledgement of any mistakes whatsoever.