Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Taiwan's Counterfeit AI Vaccine Trade


Taiwan - which  lies under the East-Asian Migratory Flyway - has been plagued with (mostly LPAI H5N2) outbreaks for years. But in 2015 Taiwan saw the arrival of at least 3 new HPAI strains of H5 - all apparently related to the H5N8 virus which first erupted in South Korea 12 months earlier.
Unlike Mainland China - which is the world's largest consumer of poultry AI vaccines - Taiwan prefers instead to use the OIE recommended methods of strict quarantine and culling.
That hasn't stopped desperate poultry farmers from circumventing the law - something we looked at a little over two years ago in Taiwan COA Warns Against Importation & Use Of AI Vaccines.

Last summer Taiwanese police arrested 9 people accused of making and selling - or buying - counterfeit pig vaccines At least 7,800 vials of this fake porcine  vaccine had been sold to 32 farmers, and nearly 400,000 pigs had  been injected.
Not only were these vaccines diluted to the point of being useless to prevent porcine circovirus (PCV), they were also contaminated with bacteria, and many of the vaccinated pigs died.
This report from Focus Taiwan.
Nine people charged in fake pig vaccine case 
2017/06/06 18:32:01
Taipei, June 6 (CNA) Nine people have been charged in a case involving the supply of fake vaccines to pig farmers, the Yunlin District Prosecutors' Office said Tuesday.

The nine individuals were indicted on June 2 on charges of fraud, making and selling counterfeit veterinary drugs, and forging or altering documents - offenses that violate the Veterinary Drugs Control Act and the Criminal Code, according to the prosecutors.

The investigation was launched following the sudden death of a number of piglets in Yunlin and Changhua and after prosecutors received a tipoff in March that dubious pig vaccines were being sold to farmers.

During the investigation, prosecutors found that two men had been purchasing genuine vaccines at a cost of NT$3,750 (US$124) per vial, diluting them with distilled water, and repackaging them.
(Continue . . . )

Aside from the bacterial contamination issue and the lack of protection afforded these `vaccinated' pigs, diluted vaccines pose an incredible risk of allowing viruses to replicate and evolve away from the vaccine strain, putting the entire pig population at risk.
But the story gets even worse today.
Based on Chinese language media reports overnight, last summer's arrests lead to an even larger investigation into counterfeit poultry vaccines, and this week additional arrests have been made.

According to multiple reports (see here, here, and here), the scheme involved the illicit collection of blood from (supposedly) previously infected and recovered poultry at a slaughterhouse.
The harvested blood was reportedly `centrifuged', and the serum collected - and after adding antibiotics and `other drugs' - injected as a vaccine.
It isn't clear how many birds already received this fake vaccine, but enough of this witch's brew vaccinate 500,000 birds was recovered by authorities.

Based on the video of the premises (see below), this operation was conducted under absolutely squalid and primitive conditions, and the resultant `vaccine' appears to have undergone absolutely no testing for purity, contents, or strength.

Frankly, if you wanted to spark a new  epizootic (or worse, a pandemic), it would be hard to come up with a better scheme.  One wonders how much this operation has contributed to the ongoing AI epizootic on the island.

Some (translated) excerpts from one the media reports follow:
Taiwan's unscrupulous peddlers made fake tens of millions of yuan worth of fake poultry flu
March 21, 2018 16:05 Taiwan , China

Unscrupulous traders sold fake black bird flu fake drugs, and the group "injection team" peddled them to the poultry industry and profited tens of millions of yuan. (Source: Taiwan "China Times")

China Taiwan Network March 21st According to Taiwan’s “China Times” report, Yunlin DPA seized two groups of illegal elements in Yunlin, Taoyuan, and Changhua. They made black heart avian influenza counterfeit drugs and formed “injection teams” everywhere. Selling to poultry farms will earn millions of dollars (NT, the same below). The whole case continued to expand in investigations.

The report said that when the prosecutor of the Yunlin Land Prosecutor's Office investigated the black heart pig vaccine case in 2017, he discovered that there were unscrupulous people who formed an "injection team" to sell black duck avian influenza animal counterfeit medicines to duck raisers and immediately reported to the Attorney General Cheng Mingqian, Zheng Mingqian. Instruct immediately to initiate investigation.

After prosecutor He Jinsheng directed the case handlers to conduct long-term cabling and search, on March 15 this year, the owner of Wu Xing, Dongzhi Township, Yunlin County was found to have collected bird blood from poultry farms that had survived the bird flu since 2015. The use of centrifuges to separate serum from blood and blood clots, and then add antibiotics and other unknown drugs to make bird flu known to prevent bird flu virus counterfeit animal drugs.

The prosecutor stated that a total of 544 fake drugs for black-hearted bird flu animals have been detained and estimated to be injectable with 1,000 birds per bottle. The quantity of counterfeit drugs could allow 540,000 birds to become poison-protected animals with viruses. Virus-infected animals that do not have the disease on their face, if found in the market, will cause more serious bird flu outbreaks. (China Taiwan Net Juanzi)

This investigation is reportedly ongoing, and more arrests appear likely.  Hopefully laboratory testing will provide additional information on virological legacy of this illicit operation. 

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