Botched goat tests leave 27 students ill

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 September, 2011, 12:00am


Northeast Agricultural University in Harbin, Heilongjiang has apologised for botched laboratory tests on goats that led to 27 students and one teacher contracting Bang's disease, an infectious disease that can lead to incapacitation and permanent damage to the central nervous system.

'We are deeply saddened by this and apologise deeply to the ill teacher and students and their families,' university vice-president Feng Xiao told a press conference yesterday, Xinhua reported.

The dean and party secretary of the university's animal medicine department have been dismissed because of the incident.

An investigation found that teaching staff had bought four goats for laboratory use from a local farm but had not asked for quarantine certificates. The teachers who supervised the tests also failed to conduct on-site quarantine tests and did not follow laboratory protocol by insisting students wore protective clothing.

A total of 110 students, four teachers and two laboratory staff performed high-risk tests on the four goats from November 4 to the end of March. One student said the dissection class had been carried out in extremely unhygienic conditions.

'The lab was like a very dirty warehouse ... the teacher brought his own dissection gear and he did not wear gloves. The teacher asked students to bring gloves to the class. Some did and others did not,' the student said.

Students also said the lab was not sterilised and they were not given antiseptic liquid for hand washing. There was also goat dung and blood in the corridor outside the lab.

Victims complained of fever, joint pain, fatigue and sweating during the winter holidays.

In March a student from the animal medicine department was confirmed to have contracted Bang's disease, also known as undulant fever or Brucellosis. Humans become infected after coming into contact with animals or animal products that are contaminated with the Brucella bacteria.

The university organised medical check-ups and found other victims in the animal medicine and applied technology departments. Two students remain in hospital.

The university has promised to pay 30,000 yuan (HK$36,500) in subsidies and another 31,000 yuan in tuition fee waivers and increased allowances. Ten students have yet to sign compensation deals.