Below are 5 letters, for the record, from me asking the Canadian Food Inspection Agency which is true. Did they retest my samples or not?
The media was told the CFIA retested the ISA virus - positive samples but a CFIA investigator wrote to me that the CFIA never retested my samples.
The CFIA complained to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) the retesting could not confirm the Kibenge lab results. This led to stripping the lab of it's ISA virus reference status.
If the CFIA inspector is correct would this mean the Kibenge lab's work stands? Would it mean the world animal health community was misled? Would it mean British Columbia is a suspect ISA-positive region? Would this mean it is time to act to contain this virus?
I think it is time to get to the bottom of this quickly, because ISA virus is the most deadly European salmon virus known.
I have been writing to the Elena Koutsavakis, CFIA spokesperson quoted in the media, since July asking her did they retest or not?
The CFIA has never responded.
Dear Elena Koutsavakis (CFIA)
I have been writing to you monthly without reply since your interview with Canadian Press wherein you are quoted saying the CFIA is "obligated to confirm the test results at another lab, which did not corroborate Kibenge's results and led to the two audits".
Your statement was in reference to my samples of BC wild and farmed salmon that tested positive for ISA virus sequence in Dr. Kibenge's lab at the Atlantic Veterinary College, were taken by the CFIA and the subsequent OIE stripping of this lab's status as an ISA reference lab.
While you indicate the CFIA retested my samples, could not find ISA virus sequence and that this lead to the OIE's move against the lab, CFIA staff, Gary Kruger stated the opposite in a long email chain to me (attached). His understanding, as the investigator in charge of this case, is that none of my samples have been retested because I don't have chain-of-custody. Furthermore, he informed me that all my samples have been placed in ethanol which deactivates viruses and would make any future attempt to "confirm" ISA virus impossible with these samples as Canada requires isolation of the live virus to accept that ISA virus is present.
I would like to know which answer is correct? Did the CFIA retest my samples or not? Can we examine those test results? If two labs disagree, there has to be a scientific explanation.
It is accurate to state that ISA virus sequence has been detected in British Columbia. What we don't know is what that sequence is attached to. Is it a piece of an ISA virus variant, or is it attached to some other virus?
I know this is an uncomfortable subject, but whether by science, or by epidemic outbreak, it will become clear whether ISA virus is in British Columbia, Canada. ISA virus has a well-documented history of being ignored until it starts killing massive numbers of salmon. So it is in everyone's best interest that we do what we can not to repeat what is currently underway in eastern Canada - a new variant of ISA virus spreading coastwide, province to province, just as it did in Chile, Norway, Scotland, and the Faroe Islands.
The OIE will not say why they voted unanimously to strip the Kibenge lab and so this issue falls on your shoulders, what evidence exists that conventional PRC testing of my samples has not generated ISA virus sequence?
Thank you for your patience,
On 2013-09-13, at 10:55 AM, Alex Morton
Dear Elena Koutsavakis:
I still have not received an answer from you regarding your comments in the media that the CFIA retested my samples where ISA virus sequence was detected. Today I learned several key BC veterinarians in the ISA virus issue, Dr. Gary Marty, Dr. Kim Klotins and Dr. Joseph Beres have all resigned or been suspended from the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia (http://www.cvbc.ca/cfm/index.cfm?It=100&Id=380).
Can you tell me why the CFIA told me none of my samples were retested, when you told the media they had been retested, and why two of your vets have been suspended from the College of BC Veterinarians?
I know this is a difficult situation, but everyone would benefit from clearing this up,
On 2013-08-30, at 7:53 AM, Alex Morton
Dear Ms Koutsavakis:
I still have not heard from you regarding the conflicting statements by the CFIA regarding ISA virus. Did the CFIA retest my samples for ISA virus as per your comments in the Canadian Press or has the CFIA refused to retest my samples after confiscating them from the lab as communicated to me by CFIA inspector Gary Kruger?
These statements are so opposite they cannot both be accurate. ISA virus is causing bankruptcy on the east coast of Canada right now http://www.thetelegram.com/News/Local/2013-08-29/article-3367922/Salmon-anemia-hit-company-hard/1 Clearly allowing the virus to proliferate is not good for anyone.
As we progress into the era of climate change, it is going to be very important that citizens can take full confidence in government structures we pay to protect us from the spread of viruses. The CFIA cannot leave us with these two conflicting statements and expect confidence in your agency. There has to be a reason why seven highly proficient labs are finding ISA virus sequence. This is a scientific question that can be answered.
Punishment for ISA virus detection has been used before, but it did not going to control the spread of this virus through Chile. Eventually, BC will face what Norway, Scotland, Faroe Islands, Chile and Eastern Canada face - ISA virus outbreaks, with the added dynamic of impact on wild Pacific salmon with consequences no one can accurately predict.
If I could make a suggestion, perhaps you could personally oversee full sequencing of my samples, even though the the CFIA put them in ethanol, thus making "confirmation" of the virus impossible. Then you would have a full working knowledge of how to frame the CFIA statements to rebuild trust and deal proactively with this virus. Because we have the same companies using the same Mowi salmon livestock as other regions with ISA virus and because Canada never made anyone sign import forms stating there was no ISA virus in the eggs that came into BC, it is entirely reasonable that ISA virus is in BC. The important thing is to stop it from causing the entirely predictable epidemic characteristic of this virus/disease.
I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience, thank you,
On 2013-07-22, at 8:31 AM, Alex Morton
Dear Ms Koutsavakis:
I have not received a reply to my questions. When you told the Canadian Press that the CFIA was "obligated to confirm the tests at another lab" which lab was that and why does this statement conflict with emails to me from Gary Kruger of the CFIA where he stated that there was no retesting done of the ISAv - positive samples that I sent to the Kibenge lab.
In this article the BC Salmon Farmers attempt to convince the public that ISA virus came here on its own via the connecting oceans! http://www.timescolonist.com/opinion/fish-lab-decision-was-a-good-one-1.543391
It is very important moving forward that we understand whether the CFIA did actually retest my samples or not.
Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
On 2013-07-08, at 12:16 AM, alexandra morton
Dear Elena (CFIA)
I am writing you in regard to the article below by Canadian Press and your email cited that the CFIA was "... obligated to confirm the test results at another lab, which did not corroborate Kibenge's results."
This statement also appears on the CFIA website: "The positive test results reported by the AVC were not corroborated by the DFO laboratory." http://www.inspection.gc.ca/animals/aquatic-animals/diseases/reportable/isa/statement-2013-07-05/eng/1373038790217/1373041710849
I would like to know which lab the CFIA referring to.
Kibenge's first ISAv positive test results were "corroborated" by Nelle Gagne at Canada's National Reference Lab , as per her testimony at the federal Cohen Commission. Attached is her email discussing the results of a CT value of 37.79, a weak positive. Note her apprehension in having to report this.
Since then there have been other positive results for segments of ISA virus by Dr. Kibenge's lab from samples that I provided to the lab. Each of these ISAv positive samples has been confiscated by the CFIA. I was under the impression the reason the CFIA took these samples was to retest them, but in the attached email chain with Gary Kruger of the CFIA, he is quite clear that this was not the case. He says none of my samples were retested. He goes into great depth on why. I have highlighted the applicable text.
So when you say Dr. Kibenge's lab got results which could not corroborated by another lab, I don't know what lab you are referring to. Which other lab/s retested my samples?
A second statement in this article needs confirmation. "Other labs said they recorded positive test results, but some were later deemed to be false positives."
I have not heard from Dr. Nylund that any of his positives were false, and so I would like to hear from Drs. Miller and Garver, which of their ISA virus positive results listed in their attached Cohen exhibits were "false."
The OIE won't say why they removed their authority from the Kibenge lab and the CFIA, who made the request that the lab be stripped, reports on the one hand that Kibenge's results cannot be repeated, but on the other hand that there were no such tests done.
This is a "reportable" virus. The world clearly thinks this virus is serious.
To gain any confidence that Canadian interests are being safeguarded, we need to see:
the test results that did not "corroborate" Dr. Kibenge's positive findings in my samples
the statements from the scientists who have found that some their ISAv positive findings were a mistake.
I would like to draw to your attention that when Dr. Are Nylund, U of Bergen reported that the way ISA virus got to Chile was in eggs from a hatchery on the central coast of Norway he too suffered an audit that suggested their were irregularities with his lab. Norway dealt with this internally and the matter was dropped, but casting vague aspersions on labs that make uncomfortable findings about ISA virus spreading to new regions of the world is becoming a pattern. The CFIA did testify at Cohen that if ISA virus is confirmed in BC, trade will cease for BC farm salmon.
Please read the Kruger email . The first thing the CFIA does with every positive sample of mine is to place it in ethanol which ensures no virus will ever be cultured from that tissue and thus ISA virus will never be confirmed in Canada, which requires culturing (virus isolation). This does not make sense.
Consider this. It was Dr. Kibenge who first detected ISA virus in Chile, after years of debate as to whether the virus was present there among the Atlantic salmon farming industry. Shortly after Dr. Kibenge told Chile they had ISA, the virus started spreading and killed millions of salmon, causing $2 billion in damages.
Dr. Fred Kibenge was right. What if he is right again? Chile did not have wild salmon to lose, but BC does.
I believe it is in the interest of Canada, to ensure that Dr. Kibenge's work on the samples from British Columbia be completed and brought to the larger scientific community. It is my perception that there is an effort underway to stop this work, because of its' potential impact on a large, international agribusiness.
Elena, I hope that I am wrong and that the CFIA remains open to evaluating the evidence that ISA virus is in BC and that the CFIA can find a way to prevent the epidemic that has always accompanied this virus when it enters a new region. Influenza family viruses in feedlots are dangerous to food security and life in general.
Scientists concerned over chill in reporting of salmon virus after lab delisted
By Alison Auld, The Canadian Press
July 7, 2013 8:10 AM
Scientists fear there could be a reluctance to report a deadly fish virus after the first lab in Canada to say it was detected in British Columbia salmon was stripped of a special reference status by an international agency.
Marine researchers say they were stunned to hear that the World Organization for Animal Health, or OIE, recently suspended the reference status from a research laboratory at the Atlantic Veterinary College in Prince Edward Island.
Run by Fred Kibenge, who is considered one of the world's leading authorities on infectious salmon anemia, it was one of only two labs in the world recognized by the group for the testing of the virus.
Kibenge's work came under scrutiny in 2011 after he said he found evidence of the virulent disease in wild B.C. sockeye salmon, challenging the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's position that the virus is not present in the province.
His findings led the inspection agency to conduct an audit and send their findings to the OIE, which did its own audit and announced last month that it was delisting Kibenge's lab in a move that some say could discourage reporting of infectious salmon anemia.
"This is creating a very chilly environment for people to investigate the presence of this virus in the Pacific Ocean," said Rick Routledge, a professor at Simon Fraser University who gave Kibenge the salmon samples that tested positive.
"It's a very distressing situation."
Routledge, who has studied juvenile sockeye salmon migrations for 10 years in B.C., said he wanted to understand why the population was declining and used Kibenge's lab to examine possible causes.
The findings caused the Cohen Commission, a federal inquiry looking into the decline of sockeye salmon in B.C., to extend its hearings so Kibenge and others could testify about the possible presence of the virus.
Other labs said they recorded positive test results, but some were later deemed to be false positives.
The influenza-type virus devastated farmed salmon stocks in Chile in 2007 and has been found in salmon aquaculture operations in Atlantic Canada, leading to culls and quarantines. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says it can kill up to 90 per cent of infected salmon, but does not pose a risk to human health.
Critics have said the federal agency went after Kibenge's lab to suppress the findings and protect B.C.'s lucrative salmon export market, which could be hit with trade restrictions if the virus is detected.
A spokeswoman with the CFIA declined an interview request but said in an email that it was obligated to confirm the test results at another lab, which did not corroborate Kibenge's results and led to the two audits.
"The evaluation ... identified concerns, which may have led to the questionable ISA test results," said Elena Koutsavakis, without elaborating on the concerns.
"The OIE audit, performed by an international panel of scientific experts, found a series of weaknesses affecting the quality of diagnoses performed at the Atlantic Veterinary College laboratory."
An official with the college said Kibenge did not want to comment, but the school's dean said he didn't see the CFIA's actions as punitive and that he would comply with it.
Don Reynolds said he thought Kibenge ran his lab appropriately and will continue to test for the virus. But, he concedes that it's not clear how the loss of status will affect the school.
"Our reputation is not just based on one situation, so I think time will tell," he said. "We'll just let that play out."
Bernard Vallat, director general at the OIE in Paris, dismissed claims that the organization was pressured by Canadian officials to find fault with Kibenge's work and strip the lab of the status.
Vallat said it was delisted because of "inadequate features" regarding methodology that he would not elaborate on because they have not been made public.
"I understand there is a lot of controversy, but our experts are independent, they are trusted by all our members and they did their job," he said. "So from my point of view, we did not use politics to do that."
Alexandra Morton, a fish researcher and activist in B.C., has no doubt the virus is in the province but says the CFIA is not doing proper testing to detect it.
She says other labs have found evidence of the virus in farmed fish, which are penned in areas along the migration route of wild salmon — raising concerns that it could spread among the wild fish.
"The experiment is underway in British Columbia and we'll just see what happens next," she said. "Either the industry recognizes they have it and get those infected fish out or we just play Russian roulette like we are now and eventually it will go virulent."