Sunday, August 12, 2007

Not only, but also.

Pirbright Institute of Animal Health, currently in the news as a potential source of the FMD outbreak reported last week, is also in the news for a bTb 'escape'.

During a routine HSE inspection in February this year, it's facility at Compton, near Newbury, Berkshire, was found to have problems with the air conditioning unit. A major experiment into the benefits of vaccinating cattle for bovine TB was halted, fifteen cattle taking part in the trial were culled, and part of the laboratory was closed down.

An IAH spokesman said "The airflow systems in the building were not working as they should, therefore the experiment was terminated".

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) who discovered the fault, were concerned about the safety of workers on the site, who it was feared were in danger of inhaling contaminated air. The cattle had been inoculated with BCG vaccine, and then 'challenged' with bTB bacteria. They were being monitored in the laboratory to see what if any, response was noted.

The IAH spokesman explained that alternative arrangements had been made at another site, so that the experiment could continue and that it had only caused ' a short delay, or maybe no delay at all' in the wider programme of bTB vaccine research.

In the light of this week's news however, it does raise questions about the state of biosecurity surrounding the IAH's facilities. And we should be grateful that at least the HSE takes exposure to tuberculosis bacteria seriously.

As a postscipt, given the comments we have received on 'leaving badgers infected with tuberculosis alone', we wonder how much public money may have to be spent on vaccines for other susceptible species, other than the sentinel cattle mentioned above? Will the taxpayer have to fund BCG for cats? free range pigs? camelids and deer? and of course every child would have to be immunised again.

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