Germ warfare scientists in the United Kingdom have been called in to help search for the cause of smallpox case at Birmingham University.
GV EXTERIOR Porton Down building
SV INTERIOR Women in gowns at work-bench
SV Technician with arms in safety cabinet, reporter John Darby and safety officer Mr. Sidney Restall walk into frame and begin speaking (FIRST WORDS AT 10 FT. 3.0 METRES 16 SECONDS) (3 shots)
SCU Door to laboratory with "Biohazard" sign
SV Technician and CU his hands working (2 shots)
SV Reporter John Darby talking to Safety Officer Restall (3 shots)
GV Effluent treatment room
SCU Reporter John Darby talking to Safety Officer Keith Allmer, in effluent treatment room
DARBY: "Well, Sid, how actually does this safety cabinet work?"
RESTALL: "Well, these cabinets are used in M.R.E. (Military Research Establishment) for handling any organism capable of causing disease, either in man or in animals. They work very simply, but very effectively. The principle being that air is extracted from the cabinet by these two extractor filters here, and air to replace this extracted air is passed in through another filter on the left had side there, giving us a sterile air supply to the cabinet. Also, the cabinet is maintained at a negative pressure to the laboratory, so that any leakage would be inwards rather than outwards. The operator has to work through rubber gloves, which he gets used to over a period of time, and we also have supplies of gas and electricity to the cabinet so he can carry out most normal laboratory operations in this sort of cabinet."
DARBY: "But what actually would happen if one of those rather vulnerable looking rubber gloves was punctured?"
RESTALL: "Well we have ensured that the air velocity through a port, through a glove port, is so high so that even if the operator pulled off a glove completely, which is unlikely but could happen, the possibility of infected particles going out against the air stream is extremely remote."
DARBY: "Well, Sid, what actually is happening here?"
RESTALL: "Well this is a test tunnel fr testing high efficiency air filters. Which are used at M.R.E. in a great variety of situations, on safety cabinets and in air ventilation systems. An before we install a filter in any of these critical situations we test them on this tunnel."
DARBY: "So it would be fair to say that safety is a primary concern here?"
RESTALL: "Absolutely primary concern. It always has been and we hope it always will be."
Safety Officer Mr. Keith Allmer describes other precautions.
DARBY: "I gather here at Porton Down you even have a separate sewage system?"
ALLMER: "Oh, yes that is so, we are not dependent upon the local authority at all. We have our own sewage plant."
DARBY: "In fact it would be fair to say that this research establishment is in an ideal location, separate from local communities and keeping them safe from infection."
ALLMER: "Yes. Due to the geographical isolation of the place. We are on the edge of Salisbury Plain here."
DARBY: "And you have never had any difficulties with local communities?"
ALLMER: "None at all. None whatsoever."
DARBY: "Thank you very much."
REPORTER: JOHN DARBY
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: Germ warfare scientists in the United Kingdom have been called in to help search for the cause of smallpox case at Birmingham University. They are checking the theory that the virus leaked from a research laboratory, the director of which has since committed suicide. The only patient with a confirmed case of smallpox is in a satisfactory condition. The suspicion that the virus leaked from the laboratory, and the use of specialists from the Ministry of Defence Porton down research centre, have prompted questions about how that establishment guards against leaks.
SYNOPSIS: For the first time in three years a camera team has ben granted permission to film inside the Porton Down research centre. Reporter John Darby spoke to Safety Officer Mr. Sidney Restall.
The germ warfare scientists work with dangerous biological agents, and to prevent the virulent diseases and poisons escaping efficient air filters are needed. Once a virus like smallpox escapes, it can infect humans and reproduce itself by millions of times.