Vaccine Security Breach 'Caused Outbreak'

UK - A breakdown in biosecurity during the manufacture of foot and mouth vaccine at an American pharmaceuticals company is the most likely source of the outbreak, a top virologist claimed last night.
calendar icon 6 August 2007
clock icon 2 minute read
Merial makes several vaccines for foot and mouth at the Pirbright plant in Surrey

The foot and mouth strain in the infected cattle at Woolfords Farm matches that used in an experimental vaccine by Merial Animal Health three weeks ago.

Merial's laboratory is at the Pirbright complex, also home to the Institute for Animal Health. They are the only facilities in Britain licensed to work with live foot and mouth strains and are three miles from the farm.

An independent inquiry is under way to confirm whether the labs are to blame for the outbreak.

Prof John Oxford told The Daily Telegraph that the Merial lab was the probable source of the leak. He said the disease might have come from a batch of vaccine accidentally containing the live virus.

The most likely explanation was a breakdown in the process of testing to ensure the virus was harmless before it was removed from the maximum security facilities where it was manufactured, he said.

Vaccines work by provoking an immune system response to a weakened or inactive form of a virus or a bacterial toxin. Previous outbreaks, such as the one which originated in France in 1981, have been caused by tests mistakenly suggesting that batches of vaccine were safe because they contained no active virus.

Prof Oxford, professor of virology at Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry in London, said: "The most likely scenario is that they had tested the batch of vaccine and convinced themselves it was dead, but in fact there could have been live virus lurking in there.

Source: Telegraph
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