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By Dr Neil Metcalfe BMedSc (Hons) MBChB DRCOG DCH MRCGP (dist) GP and Police Surgeon.

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Presentation on theme: "By Dr Neil Metcalfe BMedSc (Hons) MBChB DRCOG DCH MRCGP (dist) GP and Police Surgeon."— Presentation transcript:

1 By Dr Neil Metcalfe BMedSc (Hons) MBChB DRCOG DCH MRCGP (dist) GP and Police Surgeon

2  What is Woolsorter’s disease?  Historical timeline of scientific developments relevant to Woolsorter’s disease  The potential link to bioterrorism

3 Introduction Working life in mid-nineteenth century Woolsorting

4 The Effects of Arts Trades and Professions on Health and Longevity, published 1831: Suggested woolsorters were healthy despite “hot, headache-inducing conditions” Found 1 in 5 to die from consumption or ‘decline’


6  West Yorkshire main area for woolsorting  Local cases of bronchitis, pneumonia and blood poisoning termed maladie de Bradford phrase  Other areas known as chambon, malignant pustules, splenic fever  First reported 1838

7  Dr John Henry Bell (d.1906) wrote a death certificate stating “contracted owing to the owner’s neglect in taking adequate precautions” without knowing what precautions exactly  1878, Bradford Observer: “Three woolsorters had died from blood poisoning contracted in the same shed of the same factory”  1878 Dr J.E. Eddison: could it be linked to anthrax, common infectious disease of animals?  1879 – Link confirmed by Bell

8  Bacillus anthracis  One of oldest recorded diseases of animals  Believed to be the Sixth Plague in Book of Exodus  Still regularly occurs in ruminants e.g. cattle, sheep, goats, camels, buffalos, antelopes; in hind-gut fermenters such as zebras and rhinos

9  Found to have 2 forms of disease  Inhalational anthrax  Cutaneous anthrax


11  Mr Byles, MP Salford North: “a terrible disease, and if a man contracted it two days sufficed to kill him. A man went to work perfectly well and came home with a headache and in 48 hours he was dead”  Bradford conference draws up Bradford Rules in 1884, later adopted nationally  Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act 1886  Human anthrax made a notifiable disease under S39 of the Factory and Workshop Act 1895  Bradford Rules adopted into Departmental Committee Report of 1897



14  Seen in combers and carders  Wife’s start being infected from husband’s clothes (6 deaths in 1914)  Sir Thomas Legge (1863- 1932, right), the first Medical Inspector of Factories gets involved  Blames air currents  Blames certain wool especially Persian, mohair and van mohair

15  Regulations in 1905 extending those of 1897 to include woolcombers and all handlers of goat and camel hair  However, no mention regard quality of imports:  Mr Jowett, MP for Bradford West “respectfully submitted that the line of action taken by the Home Office Department in regard to this disease of anthrax started at the wrong end. It started when the disease entered the factory, instead of preventing it entering the factory”

16  Chambers of Commerce of Bradford, Halifax and Kidderminster wrote a circular to consignors of Persian wool  Keep extraneous matter out of exported bales  Pack locks, fallen wool and skin in separate bales  Prepared for higher costs

17  Formed 1905  Aimed to study all cases of the disease and devise means of total prevention  Dr Fritz Eurich (1867-1945) in charge of £300 budget  Used teaching laboratory at Bradford Technical College  5g mohair colonised 130 000 colonies bacteria but if washed clean no change in anthrax spore number  96 Persian wool fleeces with dried blood found to have 90 positive cases of anthrax  Uneconomical to throw away blood stained wool but heat treatments would ruin the wool. Lower temperatures would increase anthrax spread

18  Departmental Committee of Inquiry 1913  Commissioned Eurich to devise method of disinfection  Timing crucial:  Peak in anthrax 1916-1918  Advised a 2% solution of formaldehyde in water at 102-105⁰F  Disinfection Sub-Committee highlights Karachi, Bombay, Basra and Cairo  Accepted as part of Anthrax Prevention Act of 1919  Governmental Wool Disinfection Station at Liverpool sanctioned in 1920, opens 1921  Capacity for 5-6 million pounds of wool a year  Low amount, only Indian goat hair and all hair from Egypt scheduled first

19  Number of cases of inhalation anthrax in wool and hair industry from 1920-1996 was 430, 46 deaths  Reduction due to:  disinfection station  Decline in wool industry  Improvements in health, nutrition, clothing, housing  Required carrying of anthrax warning cards




23 Continuing lack of treatment Exploited by British biological war programme during WW2 Tests performed at Gruinard Island off coast of Ross and Cromarty in Scotland Anthrax hundreds more times potent than any chemical agent at the time 22 April 1943, 5million anthrax- laced cakes ready to be dropped over Germany by air War brought about treatment Penicillin reduced case fatality rates for 1944-1955 less than 4% Vaccine also introduced Just 14 cases occupational anthrax between 1981-2000

24  1970s – home-craftsman died of anthrax using infected goat-camel hair yarn from Pakistan  Soviet accident  Bioterrorism

25 Bioterrorism (continued)

26  Woolsorters disease now a rare condition  Lessons can be learned from its history  Continued vigilance is needed  Thank local people for local disease


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