Monday, 4 May 2020

The insecurity of top-level biosecured facilities in China and UK

Reports escalated over the weekend that the origins of the Coronavirus pandemic was a leak from a top-security virology research lab in Wuhan.

Lest doubters suggest that such a leak from a top security bio-research lab is not possible, I  have assembled below three article that demonstrate the opposite.

One by the WHO is from China in 2004, one from France, and the firsd tone from the UK in 2007


Final report on potential breaches of biosecurity at the Pirbright site 2007 (80 pages)


“… such was the condition in which we found the site drainage system

that we conclude that the requirements for Containment Level 4 were not met, thus

constituting a breach of biosecurity for the Pirbright site as a whole”



HSE is now pleased to present to the government a final report on potential breaches

to biosecurity at the Pirbright site. We have addressed the questions posed to us by

our terms of reference and, as a result of our investigations, have been able to develop

an explanation of how the foot and mouth disease virus used at the Pirbright site can

be linked to the first farm infected.

This has been a complex investigation and the report is the product of careful work

by a large group of technical experts. While HSE has led the team and contributed

specialists across its own areas of expertise, vital contributions have been made by

staff from a range of distinguished organisations. HSE is grateful to thank everyone

involved for making their skills and knowledge so readily available. In particular, I would

like to thank Defra, the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, the Health Protection Agency

and the Environment Agency for the staff they provided to the investigation team. I

would also like to record my appreciation of the work done in support of our inquiries

by Surrey Police, the Central Science Laboratory, the Meteorological Office and the

Health and Safety Laboratory.

My colleagues in HSE have been a tremendous support. Their professionalism and

willingness to go the extra mile has made it possible for the work to be done thoroughly

and for this report to be completed within four weeks of the start of the investigation. I

would like to pay tribute to them – they deserve the thanks of everyone with an interest

in this issue.

I would like to record that the investigation has been carried out with the support

and co-operation of the management and staff from the Institute for Animal Health,

Stabilitech Ltd, and Merial Animal Health Ltd.

Dr Paul Logan



Summary of Findings

Following the outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD) in Surrey on 3 August,

the government asked the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to lead an investigation

into biosecurity issues at the Pirbright facility – a site occupied by the Institute of Animal

Health (IAH) and also by two private companies called Merial Animal Health Ltd (Merial)

and Stabilitech Ltd (Stabilitech). The Department of the Environment, Food and Rural

Affairs (Defra) had established that the virus strain causing FMD in the first infected herd

of cattle at a farm in Normandy, Surrey was O1 BFS67 (also known as 01 BFS1860

and hereafter referred to as O1 BFS). This is a laboratory strain not naturally found

in the environment and was one upon which work was being carried out by all three

occupants of the Pirbright site ahead of the first outbreak. HSE’s job was to lead a

team to investigate:

potential breaches of biosecurity at the Pirbright site;

whether such breaches may have led to a release of any specified animal


whether any such breaches had been rectified to prevent future incidents.

2 The period covered by our investigation was 7–26 July following advice from Defra


3 The team started work at the site on 5 August. Within two days, we established

and prioritised our main inquiry lines and set these down in an initial report submitted

on 7 August. Within a month of the first outbreak, the team has completed the

investigation and our conclusions and recommendations are summarised below,

according to the questions we were asked to address in our commission from the

government. Our report in full follows.

O1 BFS virus strain

4 We conclude first that this virus strain, found in the first infected animal herd in

Normandy, is highly likely to have originated from the Pirbright site. We conclude this

from the results of nucleotide sequencing tests of the virus strain in question, which we

commissioned as part of the investigation. However, due to very small differences in

the strains used at all three organisations at Pirbright, it has not been possible to

pinpoint precisely through sequencing the exact origin of virus found in the infected

animals at Normandy.

Breaches of biosecurity at Pirbright

5 We looked at biosecurity controls in four areas where we judged it possible for the

virus to escape containment arrangements at Pirbright, namely solid waste disposal,

airborne routes through the fabric of site buildings or faults in filtration systems, liquid

waste disposal, and human movements.

Solid waste

6 We found no evidence of any breakdown in the containment systems for solid

waste disposal at the Pirbright site overall.

Airborne release

7 We found no evidence of a biosecurity failure that could have led to the virus being

released from the site into the atmosphere. The appropriate bio control systems were

functioning properly at Merial. The same was true at IAH and Stabilitech, although we

did find some weaknesses in the physical integrity of their premises and in their filter

testing regimes.

Liquid waste disposal

8 IAH and Stabilitech work on experiments with only small amounts of live FMD

virus. Waste from those experiments can include the live virus that passes through

a chemical effluent inactivation process before entering the Pirbright site drainage

system. That process does not achieve complete inactivation; a final effluent treatment

process on the site is designed to achieve that before the waste passes into the public

sewer. Waste water from human showers, which could also contain some live virus,

enters the site drainage system direct. It was therefore possible for small quantities of

live virus from IAH and Stabilitech to have entered the site drainage system at this point

in the system. However, because this was in accordance with Defra’s requirements, we

conclude there was no breach of biosecurity in this respect.

9 We take the same view in relation to Merial. During the period covered by our

investigation, Merial were engaged in large-scale FMD vaccine production and we

established that the resulting waste containing the live FMD virus O1 BFS was flushed into the company’s effluent sump and then passed into the site drainage system. The

quantities involved were much larger than those for IAH and Stabilitech. However, this

act of discharge was permitted by Defra, hence we conclude there was no breach of

biosecurity at this juncture by Merial.

10 However, such was the condition in which we found the site drainage system

that we conclude that the requirements for Containment Level 4 were not met, thus

constituting a breach of biosecurity for the Pirbright site as a whole. Our conclusion

is supported by the evidence we found of long-term damage and leakage, including

cracked pipes, unsealed manholes and tree root ingress. We have investigated

ownership of the drainage system, which rests with IAH. However, we are aware of a

difference of opinion between IAH and Merial over responsibility for maintenance of a

key section of pipe relevant to this investigation.

Pirbright Lead Investigator

Emergencies preparedness, response


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China’s latest SARS outbreak has been contained, but biosafety concerns remain – Update 7

18 May 2004


It has been more than three weeks since the last case was placed in isolation in China’s latest SARS outbreak, prompting the World Health Organization to declare that the chain of human-to-human transmission appears to have been broken.

However, WHO experts and the Chinese authorities are still trying to determine the exact cause of the outbreak. The investigation has centred primarily on the National Institute of Virology in Beijing where experiments using live and inactivated SARS coronavirus have been carried out. Two researchers at the Institute developed SARS in late March and mid-April. The outbreak was reported on April 22 and the Institute was closed a day later.

Preliminary findings in the investigation have yet to identify a single infectious source or single procedural error at the Institute – and it is conceivable that an exact answer may never be determined. Neither of the researchers is known to have directly conducted experiments using live SARS coronavirus. However, investigators have serious concerns about biosafety procedures at the Institute – including how and where procedures using SARS coronavirus were carried out, and how and where SARS coronavirus samples were stored.

WHO and Chinese authorities view with concern the occurrence of laboratory-associated SARS cases. WHO urges all Member States to view this latest outbreak as an opportunity to review the biosafety practices of institutions and laboratories working with SARS coronavirus.

During and after the SARS outbreak of 2003, a large number of specimens were collected from possible human cases, animals and the environment. These specimens, which may contain live SARS coronavirus, are still kept in various laboratories around the world. Some of them are stored in laboratories at an inappropriate containment level. SARS coronavirus has also been propagated in reference and research laboratories, and distributed to other laboratories for research purposes. Research using live and inactivated SARS coronavirus – and other pathogens capable of causing serious illness -- is being conducted in many laboratories.

WHO has issued the following laboratory safety guidelines and recommendations:

In these guidelines, WHO strongly recommends Biosafety Level 3 (BSL 3) as the minimum containment level to work with live SARS coronavirus. WHO also urges Member States to maintain a thorough inventory of laboratories working with and/or storing live SARS coronavirus and to ensure that necessary biosafety standards are in place.

WHO commends the Chinese authorities for taking swift action to contain the latest outbreak once it was recognized and reported, by way of extensive contact tracing and the quarantine and medical observation of such individuals. Once again, it has been demonstrated that SARS is a containable disease.

“Coronavirus was created in a laboratory” – Nobel Prize winner Luc Montagnier

Yucatan Times on April 29, 2020

French virologist and Nobel Prize winner for his work on HIV, said the SARS-CoV-2 virus, was created in a laboratory by inserting genes from HIV-1, the AIDS virus, into a coronavirus.
“We have concluded that this virus was created,” said the French scientist, during an interview with the French channel CNews.

In 2008 Montagnier won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for the research that led to the discovery of the HIV

According to Montagnier, “molecular biologists” inserted HIV DNA sequences into a coronavirus as part of their work to find an AIDS vaccine.

“There has been a manipulation of the virus: at least part of it, not all of it. There is one model, which is the classic virus, which comes mainly from bats, but to which HIV sequences have been added,” he said. “In any case, it’s not natural,” he continued. “It’s the work of professionals, of molecular biologists. Very meticulous work. For what purpose? I don’t know. One hypothesis is that they wanted to create an AIDS vaccine,” he said.

To back up his theory, Montagnier cited the study by a group of researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi, which found “an uncanny resemblance” and “little chance of coincidence” in the amino acid sequences of a SARS-CoV-2 and HIV-1 protein. The study, published on a website where scientists share ongoing analyses without waiting for expert verification, was later withdrawn by its authors.

Montagnier also predicted the imminent disappearance of the virus, because its supposedly artificial origin would be weakening it.

“One can do anything with nature, but if you make an artificial construction, it is unlikely to survive. Nature loves harmonious things; what is alien, like a virus coming from another virus, for example, is not well tolerated,” he said. For the scientist, the parts of the virus into which HIV was inserted are rapidly mutating, causing it to self-destruct.

“So what we’re seeing is that in the western United States, in Seattle, the sequences are destroyed, virtually non-existent. So if the pathogenic power of the coronavirus is linked to the insertion of these sequences, we can think that it’s going to disappear,” he said.

The scientific community questions Montagnier’s theories.
Montagnier has made a controversial statements before. Since 2010, the famous virologist began to spread a series of theories questioned by his colleagues, such as the supposed microbial origin of autism, for which he launched a crusade against vaccines (which in 2017 earned him a petition signed by a hundred doctors who called his statements “dangerous”).

After the interview, French experts again refuted Montagnier’s latest theory.

Jean-Francois Delfraissy, an immunologist and head of the scientific council advising the French government on the COVID-19 pandemic, said in an interview with France’s BFM TV that the hypothesis that a virus was created in a laboratory sounded like “a vision about a conspiracy that is not related to real science. Everyone in the scientific community agrees that COVID-19 is a coronavirus. There are different coronaviruses than others, just like SARS and MERS with emerging pathogenicity,” he added.

For Olivier Schwartz, head of the virus and immunity department at the Pasteur Institute in France, studies of the virus’ genes clearly show that it was not a virus produced by humans in a laboratory. “Professor Montagnier spreads whimsical theories,” he told the French weekly L’Obs. Schwartz said that “SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease, was not created in the laboratory. We see this by studying the genetic heritage of the virus, which has been sequenced by Chinese teams and then verified in many other laboratories, including the Pasteur Institute, which was the first in Europe to do so”.

According to several experts, the outbreak could have originated in the Wuhan wet market. But the truth is that the origin of the coronavirus remains a mystery.

Experts question the Indian study cited by Montagnier.
“The Indian team ended up withdrawing their manuscript. My personal opinion is that these Indian researchers had good faith from the beginning in their desire to analyze the genome of the virus, and realized their mistake later. But Professor Montagnier has accepted a whimsical theory,” Schwartz concluded.

For its part, the scientific community at Massive Science has already identified some 15 viruses that incorporate the same sequence common to HIV-1 and SARS-CoV-2, including a bee virus and a sweet potato virus. According to Gaetan Burgio, a geneticist at the Australian National University, interviewed by Le Monde newspaper, “the typical sequence is short. If there had been deliberate insertions of HIV sequences, they would have been much larger. It is a coincidence.

What is known about the origin of the virus
Theories about a possible human origin of the coronavirus were fueled after it became known that U.S. intelligence agencies were investigating whether the virus may have accidentally left the Wuhan Virology Institute. The Virus Cultivation Center, Asia’s largest virus bank has more than 1,500 varieties preserved.

Fox News cited U.S. government sources and said the “patient zero” of the pandemic could have been infected by a virus strain from a bat being studied in the laboratory and then passed on to the population of Wuhan.

A study by a group of Chinese scientists, published in January in The Lancet, revealed that the first patient of COVID-19 had no connection to the Wuhan animal market, nor did 13 of the first 41 patients.

Shi Zhengli, one of China’s leading experts on bat coronavirus and deputy director of the Wuhan laboratory, was part of the team that published the first study suggesting that SARS-CoV-2 (the official name of the virus) came from bats.

In an interview with Scientific American, Shi said the SARS-CoV-2 genome does not match any of the bat coronaviruses his lab has studied so far.

According to Filippa Lentzos, a biosafety researcher at King’s College London, although there is no evidence for the accident theory in the lab, there is also no “real evidence” that the virus came from the market.

“For me, the origin of the pandemic is still an unanswered question,” she told AFP.


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