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Institute for Animal Health statement in response to the HSE report, Spratt review and Epidemiology report regarding probable release of FMD virus from the Pirbright site

7 September 2007

The Institute for Animal Health (IAH) welcomes the findings of the HSE and Spratt investigations, and the Epidemiological report which have helped to clarify the complex circumstances surrounding how FMD virus might have escaped from the Pirbright site which the Institute shares with Merial Animal Health.

We also welcome the reports’ recommendations, implementation of which will help to reduce the likelihood of such a serious event happening again.  The wider issues addressed by these investigations have identified further steps that can be taken to prevent repetition of what appears to have happened in this incident.

The Institute wishes to clarify what it sees as two related but not necessarily causally linked issues. Firstly, the probable source and transmission of virus responsible for the outbreak of FMD in Surrey this year and, secondly, the implications of the whole episode in terms of wider improved biosecurity at the Pirbright site.

  1. There has been much comment about the drains. IAH management of the drains on the site is predicated on virus material being inactivated before entering them, in line with its SAPO4 licence. IAH and its Governing Body are reassured that the investigations found no evidence that the Institute’s laboratories are the source of the leak or that virus escaped from the Institute’s laboratories, and considered both to be unlikely.
  2. In the scenario suggested by the investigators to be the most likely cause of the outbreak, live virus has somehow entered the drains. This clearly means that all future biosecurity measures must take greater account of the integrity of the drains than hitherto.

    Following agreement with Defra and Merial, work on the Pirbright site has already begun to address this, including the completion of protective lining to the drains including the one implicated in the reports, and sealing of manhole covers.

The Institute will implement all other outstanding recommendations of the HSE and Spratt reports, as they apply to IAH, as soon as possible.

Notes to editors

IAH is a company limited by guarantee, with an independent Governing Body. It has charitable status and is sponsored by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.


Matt Goode, Head of External Relations

tel: 01793 413299