Skip to main content

Health: Influenza Virus

Volume 711: debated on Monday 1 June 2009


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what enquiries they have made of the World Health Organisation about their investigation into the release of material contaminated with the H5N1 influenza virus by Baxter International in Orth-Donau, Austria, earlier this year; what the circumstances were surrounding that release; and what risk it posed to public health. [HL3798]

No direct enquiries have been made with the World Health Organisation on the subject. However, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency became aware of the incident in February 2009 via an inquiry from the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. There was no risk to public health in the United Kingdom.

In December 2008 cross-contamination of the replication deficient H3N2 influenza virus with wild-type H5N1 virus occurred in a research facility in Austria, the Baxter Biomedical Research Centre in Orth. This virus material was produced exclusively for laboratory analytical and research purposes and as the material was not for human use, good manufacturing practice for medicinal products was not applied to its preparation. The contaminated virus material was supplied to four test laboratories in Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany and Slovenia between December 2008 and February 2009.

Baxter has reported that the contaminated material was transported and handled under appropriate bio-containment conditions and potentially exposed laboratory or transport personnel demonstrated no symptoms of influenza. When tested they were confirmed to be negative for the influenza virus. All affected facilities and equipment were disinfected and the contaminated virus material destroyed. Following root cause analysis, corrective and preventive actions have been taken by the company to prevent a recurrence of the incident.