“Behind the wire” – the secret life of Porton Down
Porton Down, officially the UK’s “Defence Science and Technology Laboratory”, is a secretive and scary place, where biological warfare experiments go on “behind the wire” (a phrase used to differentiate the defence establishment from the other activities on the same site). This paper partially lifts the curtain of secrecy and describes some of the work that goes on “behind the wire”.
A Review of Filovirus Work and Facilities at The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory Porton Down. (2012) Viruses 4(8), 1305-1317; doi:10.3390/v4081305
Porton Down houses two separate sites capable of conducting high containment research on ACDP (Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens) Hazard Group 4 agents: the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and the Health Protection Agency (HPA), and filovirus research has been performed at Porton Down since the first Marburg virus disease outbreak in 1967. All work is conducted within primary containment either within cabinet lines (for in vitro work) or large rigid half-suit isolators (for in vivo work). There are extensive aerobiological facilities at high containment and the use of these facilities will be reported. Research at Dstl is primarily focused on assessing and quantifying the hazard, and testing the efficacy of medical countermeasures against filoviruses. Fundamental research directed to the study and understanding of the infectious and pathogenic nature of the filoviruses, particularly in aerosols, will be reported.