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'Shabby' lab blamed for disease
03-11-2008, 05:08 PM,
'Shabby' lab blamed for disease
Quote:An independent review of last year's foot-and-mouth outbreak has criticised the laboratory at the source of the disease as "shabby and dilapidated".

The report's author, Dr Iain Anderson, said the foot-and-mouth leak should never have escaped the government-run Pirbright complex in Surrey.

He identified bad regulation by several organisations, including the Department of the Environment (Defra).

The government says Defra will no longer regulate the laboratory.

The Pirbright complex was identified as the likely source of two foot-and-mouth outbreaks in 2007.

Thousands of animals were destroyed and millions of pounds lost by farmers as quarantine zones were set up and meat exports banned.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive blamed bio-security lapses at Pirbright which happened after a tree root damaged a laboratory pipe containing the foot-and-mouth virus.

Dr Anderson identified leadership and regulation problems at the site and called for the creation of a new body - the National Institute of Infectious Diseases - to run the laboratories in future.

'Creeping degradation'

In his report, Dr Anderson, who also led the inquiry into the 2001 outbreak of foot-and-mouth, said that there had been a "creeping degradation of standards" at Pirbright.

He described regulation and risk management standards as poor.

He said there needed to be a clarity of ownership and responsibility for the site, which is shared by the Institute of Animal Health and private company Merial.

Although he described scientific research at Pirbright as "first class", he said that the funding and management of the laboratory complex was "muddled and ineffective".

Dr Anderson said among those who shared responsibility for the outbreak were Defra - which regulated Pirbright - and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) and formerly the DTI, which are responsible for the site and funding.

He also blamed the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) as the funding body, the Governing Body, and the management at the Institute of Animal Health (IAH).

However, no individuals have been singled out as responsible and Dr Anderson's review does not call for anyone to lose their job as a result of the leak.
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