200 catch brucella infection from vaccine factory's pollution


A brucella infection affecting more than 200 academics in northwestern China, most of them affiliated to a veterinary institute, has been blamed on fumes from a factory that produced vaccines for the animal-borne bacterial disease.

Lanzhou Biopharmaceutical Plant, owned by China Animal Husbandry, had used expired sanitisers while making its brucella vaccines, leaving the bacteria in the factory's polluted waste air, the Gansu Provincial Health Commission said on Thursday.

People working at the Lanzhou Veterinary Research Institute, which was downwind from the factory, developed antibodies from breathing in waste air in July and August, it said.

The national health and agriculture authorities had jointly launched an investigation after the spate of infections in Lanzhou, capital of Gansu province. Brucella epidemics occur frequently in Gansu, whose economy relies heavily on agriculture.

Since the end of November, a total of 181 researchers from the veterinary institute, 13 of its former students, and 22 students and teachers from Lanzhou University had tested positive for brucella antibodies, the health commission said.

The 13 former students were all studying temporarily in Harbin, in the country's northeast.

Most commonly an occupational disease of farm workers, veterinarians and abattoir workers, brucella is spread by infected animal tissue making contact with broken skin, or ingestion of unpasteurised dairy products from infected animals. Symptoms of the disease, which in China originates largely from sheep, include fever and bone or joint pain.

China Animal Husbandry, which produces mainly animal vaccines, was told this month to suspend production of its brucella vaccine and carry out an inspection. It was given a deadline to resolve the issue.


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